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Soundtrack review: Rage (Ryuichi Sakamoto – 2016)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Rage (Ryuichi Sakamoto – 2016)



“Rage” (怒り Ikari) is a Japanese suspense mystery drama film directed by Lee Sang-il, based on Shuichi Yoshida’s mystery novel of the same name. A grisly unsolved murder links three seemingly unrelated stories in three different Japanese cities. Ryuichi Sakamoto wrote the score and I am always interested to hear what sonic experiments he comes up with every time.

The opening cue “The site” is actually warmer and more melodic than I expected from him; the minimalistic texture comes to life with sparse chimes and piano motifs that make the strangeness of the music feel more natural. I was all ready for a quiet, almost invisible score and the composer surprises me with loud and lively motifs and thick suspense and cues like “Special report” which is a investigative frantic cue that reminds me of Ennio Morricone. There is emotion in the music and even romance and instead of an experiment I find myself listening to a meaningful and rich minimalistic score. “Omen” once again makes me think of orchestral drama scores. I am just floored by the tender piano love theme that is the epitome of great ambient music for me; the piano repeats an eternal grave motif and one sweeter and more innocent and I embrace this welcomed and surprising warmth. The theme bleeds into the next cue “Rally” where the female voice humming in the background once again evokes romantic mystery scores from Italian composers. There is nostalgia for me in “Rage” and it’s one of those rare scores where almost every cue surprises me.

“Incident” is the purest Sakamoto cue from this score and I love it because it makes sense in the context of the piano heavy texture of “Rage”; the metallic minimalism of the piece is quite immersive and I wouldn’t have minded if the cue had been 10 minutes long instead of 5. Then the sombre and haunting main piano theme returns in “smoother” and I like this score even more. The music makes me take my time with it and really listen and appreciate each tonal subtlety. I could write about the story of every cue since the way the composer used the piano in this score is quite extraordinary and unexpected for me especially considering how different the last couple of his scores sounded.

I am caught between Italian romantic thriller score from the 70s or 80s and my passion for minimalistic ambient music as I listen to “Rage”; the loneliness in the music is extraordinary as is the emotional depth that is achieved with so few sounds and instruments. I get flashes of old and empty apartments, staircases, hidden places and there is the strange sensation that none of the story happens outside; the score is claustrophobic and dark or at least this is the impression the music is giving me, of having all the freedom to explore a vast and complex place that is, in the end, a prison. Ryuichi Sakamoto is a special musician and I am congratulating myself on the decision to not miss any of his scores no matter what; there is something new and poignant to discover in each of them.

“Rage” is a piano driven drama score infused with a few trademark Ryuichi Sakamoto atmospheric pieces. I haven’t found the movie yet but as a standalone listen this composition works on every level.

Cue rating: 93 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 52 / 70

Album excellence: 75%

M1 – The Site
M3 – Special Report
M5 – Omen
M7 – Love
M8 – Rally
M11 – Incident
M12 – Smother
M13 – Suspicion
M14 – Whereabouts
M15 – Wanted
M18 – Truth
M19 – Rage
M20 – Trust
M21 – Forgiveness (feat. 2CELLOS)

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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  1. Andrew 7th February 2018

    I was hoping you would say something about “Trust”.

    1. Solomon Plant 9th April 2019

      And Truth! That piece hit me so hard while watching the film! Breathtaking

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