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Soundtrack review: Sad hill unearthed (Zeltia Montes – 2017)


Soundtrack review: Sad hill unearthed (Zeltia Montes – 2017)



In 1966 the Spanish Army built a huge cemetery with 5000 graves in Burgos for the final sequence in the film “The Good the Bad and the Ugly”. After the shooting, the whole place was left behind and for 49 years, nature covered every tomb. In October 2015 a group of film fans decided to start digging and under 3 inches of ground they found the original paved circle. For months, people from all around Europe traveled to Sad Hill to unearth and rebuild the place. Sad Hill Unearthed is the amazing story behind one of the most iconic locations in film history. It explores the dreams and motivations behind the fans but also the transformation of art, music and film in a substitute for religion. Zeltia Montes wrote the score.

The graveyard scene from “The good the bad and the ugly” truly is one of the most fantastic and memorable scenes in film history, not to mention setting for one of the best scores ever. There’s also another nostalgia point for me related to this score, and the Metallica fans know what I’m talking about; every Metallica concert for the past 25 or so years has begun with a scene from that graveyard and the sublime “The ecstasy of gold”. It only seemed natural that James Hetfield featured in this documentary, as did Ennio Morricone and Clint Eastwood. I imagine gwriting the score for this particular film, becoming part of the legend, of the lore of “The good, the bad and the ugly” must have felt pretty inspiring for Zeltia Montes. In the context of the show, the music was often minimalistic and discrete, not taking away anything from the story and I liked that, especially because when her music did take centre stage during some wordless scenes, beautifully shot, it was al the more poignant.

Times have changed since the Ennio Moriconne spaghetti western days with their vivacious scores full of stride and energy; the world has moved further away from those far west times, leaving them behind and as time passed, the sound of Westerns has become quieter, more sparse. Nick Cave and Warren Ellis have taken this new string based, empty sound to a rang of art with their scores and this is what I am expecting from a western score because yes, I consider this to be a Western score or at least an homage to one. And there come the “Opening credits” with the melancholic guitar and just a touch of a moody horn, like the lemon floating in a glass of rum; it’s the horn, the trumpet that evokes the military motif and somehow links the documentary to the war story. I simply love the mood of these opening credits, this is exactly what I was looking for.

Mood is actually what the composer focuses on and the particular mood of this documentary is not easy to capture; this was a labour of love for everyone involved, part nostalgic, part frantic. It is a mix of remembrance – because all the people involved in this project had a prior emotional connection to either the location, or the movie, or had some family member who worked on the movie – and creation. The music needed to navigate this emotional web and evoke both the spirit of the story, of the Civil War, of those far away times and the present in which a bunch of people wanted to recreate what made one of the most iconic movie scenes in history. The music needed to create a mood that was both melancholic and original, nostalgic and respectful to both past and present. The ever present strings, guitar or violin, carry the weight of this wonderfully minimalistic composition but I absolutely love the inclusion of the horn and, occasionally the marching drum that are combined in such a way that Zeltia’s music manages to stay original while in the same time bringing the atmosphere of the movie to me if I closed my eyes. Of course a stunning vocal piece couldn’t miss from a score like this; it’s not Edda Del’Orso but whoever sings on the main theme “Unearthed” could join Ennio in concert any day. This is what I mean, a cue like this shows me that Zeltia Montes could write a legendary Western score of her own.

Zeltia Montes’ music is usually overcharged with passionate emotion; this time the film at hand needed something different and the stripped her music of anything that would have been unnecessary or too much for “Sad Hill unearthed” and what’s left is a composition dripping with nostalgia and melancholy, a score I feel also mirrors in its sound the gratitude I feel towards the people who made this film, and all their efforts. Cues like “First stone” or “Altruism” will become classics of the genre and I just can’t get enough of the peaceful way in which the music flows; I could consider this score like one continuous melancholic cue and it would work just as well. “Sad Hill unearthed” is simply beautiful, poignant music that affects while in the same time leaving enough space as to not be overwhelming. Do yourselves a favour and listen to this one.

Cue rating: 94 / 100

Opening Credits
First Stone
The Bridge
The Message
50 Years

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. Silviu 14th September 2018

    mda … e frumos da’ nu prea


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