Review: ‘Score: A Film Music Documentary’

The power of music in storytelling

I was a fourteen-year-old awkward teenager watching Titanic when I first understood music’s effect on films. In the second-half of the movie, Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) convinces Rose (Kate Winslet) to get into a lifeboat. As the boat goes down and Rose looks back to Jack, I remember feeling deeply sad, yet there was still no sign of tears rolling down my face. It was not until the music that I started crying, as if I were Rose herself leaving Jack behind. When James Horner’s music was brought to the drama, that scene truly became something else, something composers hope to achieve as we learn in Score: A Film Music Documentary, written and directed by Matt Schrader. 

Matt Schrader left his job at CBS in 2014 to work on a documentary about the power of music. “It was always interesting to me how something without any lyrics could have such a profound meaning on us,” Schrader said during an interview with the Hamptons International Film Festival. The profound meaning of music on film-making becomes apparent as the documentary takes the viewer on an adventure through the creative process of Hollywood’s greatest film score composers. From organs in silent movies, to Hans Zimmer transforming orchestral songs into Led Zeppelin, Score revisits remarkable moments in cinema which were the results of collaborations between the director and the composer.

One such collaboration was between filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock and music composer Bernard Hermman (Psycho, Taxi Driver, Citizen Kane). Hitchcock had already planned the infamous shower scene in Psycho to be played without music before teaming up with Hermman. The composer, however, decided to create a score for the murder scene. Hitchcock accepted Hermman’s change and soon the score would become the quintessential sound of terror. Impressed with Hermman’s contribution to the film, Hitchcock stated that “33 percent of the effect of Psycho was due to the music.”

The story of film scores as told by Schrader turns into an ode to the works of many award-winning composers, such as Hans Zimmer (The Lion King, Gladiator, Interstellar), John Williams (Star Wars, Jaws, Schindler’s List), and James Horner (Titanic, Avatar, Braveheart). Emotions are still invoked when William’s “The Imperial March” from the Star Wars series begins playing. John Barry’s “James Bond Theme,” composed half-a-century ago, still has a huge influence on spy films. Hermman’s eeeh-eeeh-eeeh in Psycho still gives us goosebumps.

Score speaks differently to every viewer. Moviegoers get a closer look at the creative process behind their favorite films. Music lovers can get inspired by the works of acclaimed musicians. Nostalgic viewers will leave the cinema with a smile on their face. One thing is right, viewers will likely search for composers on Spotify at the end of the film, so they can listen to scores on their way home to keep up the momentum.

Director: Matt Schrader

Screenplay: Matt Schrader

Genre: Music/Documentary

Running Time: 1h 34m

About the Author

A 25-year-old Brazilian getting lost in the Big Sky. I like movies, books, chicken wings, and unfinished stories.