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The Book Thief (2013) - New Williams film score!

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I think what made Memoirs unique was not so much the score, but the awesome expansion of the themes for the suite for cello and orchestra. While Williams provides concert expansions of many themes from different movies, that suite represents a new level of aesthetic engagement of the material. Perhaps he will do something similar for The Book Thief with a suite for piano and orchestra, though I doubt it.

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No developments, variants and variations of themes or expansions..

How often does Williams really develop his themes, though? I felt that the themes in Williams's last non-Spielberg effort, Memoirs of a Geisha, were relatively static as well.

Couldn't disagree more. Sayuri's Theme, to name just one, goes through a variety of developments. I don't think it's even harmonized until "Confluence." From the B section JW derives the motif in "Going to School." The theme is deconstructed in "A Dream Discarded." And of course there's a whole slew of interesting developments in the end credits piece.

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No developments, variants and variations of themes or expansions..

How often does Williams really develop his themes, though? I felt that the themes in Williams's last non-Spielberg effort, Memoirs of a Geisha, were relatively static as well.

Couldn't disagree more. Sayuri's Theme, to name just one, goes through a variety of developments. I don't think it's even harmonized until "Confluence." From the B section JW derives the motif in "Going to School." The theme is deconstructed in "A Dream Discarded." And of course there's a whole slew of interesting developments in the end credits piece.

Actually the Dream Discarded (or the Handkerchief Scene as Williams himself calls it) is a development and deconstruction of the Chiyo's Theme rather than that of Sayuri's Theme. :znaika:

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Does anyone else find the main theme just as close to the first five notes of the Blue Fairy Theme from A.I. as is it to Angela's Ashes and Presumed Innocent? In terms of note progression, I think that theme is the closest to The Book Thief main melody.

Overall, I find the score pleasing but relatively anonymous. And my guess is, it will swell predictably, and with too much schmaltz, in the film. We tend to bash Jablonsky and Zimmer for their lack of subtlety - but The Book Thief does not exactly thread lightly either.

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These are mostly young male hipster critics, brought up on a poisonous diet of Zimmer And RC. Anything symphonic or orchestral or melodic sounds boring and dated to them. Same way a classically made film with patience seems boring to them. I think modern film critics for the most part today or unfit to judge musical scores.

Hipsters go see movies like The Book Thief? Lololol

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Aggree with what others have said above. Performance is excellent though (nice mixing and acoustics).

There must have been a temp track in this though...

The more I listen to the score the more I can pick out the temp tracking.... It's a real problem for originality here I believe.

In terms of style these are the influences:

A.I

Angelas Ashes (arpeggiated melody -- even the chord change is the same!). It's more restrained here than in AA though.

Memoirs of Geisha ( One small fact has the same string pad)

Foot Race ( almost same music as when joey is training horse in War Horse)

Bernard Herrmann ( train melody in North by Northwest and style)

The Max and Liesel theme seems familar I don't know if that is pulled from Herrmann or someone else.

there is also an exact quote from War Horse somewhere/

If you know JW output there is not much new here other than crafting of pieces that already existed... so I wouldn't rate it very high on the originality scale.

It is still an immaculate score in terms of writing and performance but I believe it's important to know where the ideas are influenced from. Temp tracking, I believe doesn't really help someone like JW. I'm surprised he has to work this way.

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The Max and Liesel theme seems familar I don't know if that is pulled from Herrmann or someone else.

It's very similar to the melody from Stepmom. Listening to the score right now--it's gorgeous thus far. I'll post more thoughts once I finish.

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A few random thoughts: Overall, it was a beautiful listen. I'd say I'd rank this alongside Lincoln at the moment--very safe for JW, and not without its share of obvious influences, but still good. As always with JW (and most good music I think), it will probably grow on me. So it's hard to say how I will appreciate it in a few weeks.

The harp material in I Hate Hitler is gorgeous. And I love the flute stuff in Revealing the Secret...very Hermmannesque (but also Williamsesque).

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Just finished listening to the complete soundtrack.

I'd say it's an average score, that gave me the impression that was either written quickly or that the composer was bored with it a bit.

No developments, variants and variations of themes or expansions..

In no way I could say that this is a masterpiece, because that would mean that I think it's on the same level with Schindler's List, E.T., Hook. etc, which I don't.

I would hope that the best of the themes, the one that opens track 1, would be used or expanded more, but it turned out that it's just an introductory theme to the main theme. (unless it's used more in the film)

One other good moment is the theme of "The Visitor at Himmel Street", unfortunately heard only once. Williams must have realised that it's indeed good, so he repeated it in the end credits.

The "Rudy is taken" track is another high moment, reminiscing strings' moments from Star Wars III.

The main theme itself, as i've said, though mermorable and with interesting harmony, is uninteresting overall, never deviating from the basic rhythmic idea.

Surely, one of the soundtracks I won't be listening as much as others..

I would encourage you to listen even more closely! This is actually one of Williams' more densely developed scores, in terms of thematic and "interthematic" construction. Themes and motifs morph into one another at different times, often in very subtle ways, but I'd say the very opening piano figure -seemingly so "inconsequential"- is a really important clue (it pops up in all kinds of different guises). And of course, that initial piano theme is treated to a beautiful transformation in the Finale.

I can pretty much assure you, given the motivic work-out this score actually is, that this was no rushed or unenthusiastic effort. But it is very subtle!

No developments, variants and variations of themes or expansions..

How often does Williams really develop his themes, though? I felt that the themes in Williams's last non-Spielberg effort, Memoirs of a Geisha, were relatively static as well.

Couldn't disagree more. Sayuri's Theme, to name just one, goes through a variety of developments. I don't think it's even harmonized until "Confluence." From the B section JW derives the motif in "Going to School." The theme is deconstructed in "A Dream Discarded." And of course there's a whole slew of interesting developments in the end credits piece.

Actually the Dream Discarded (or the Handkerchief Scene as Williams himself calls it) is a development and deconstruction of the Chiyo's Theme rather than that of Sayuri's Theme. :znaika:

Yes, but Sayuri's Theme is in of itself a transformation of Chiyo's Theme! Isn't it wonderful?

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I think the main thing the score lacks is development.... the tracks are too short. So this fact alone makes it worse than Lincoln or War Horse.

Someone said the music sounded like the Blue fairy from AI. That kind of dreamy celeste harp and piano sound particularly in "Journey to Himmel St", it has that minimalist vibe going on.

Snow flight has that kind of Tintin. Escape from Karaboudjian feel to it.

Max and Liesel track sounds like it's just waiting to be developed intot a full blown theme.

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I ignored anything from this score until now. It's shocking that Williams approved an album that's pretty much a series of short 1-3 minute long tracks. There isn't much flow to it. Here's a case where he probably should have just arranged and recorded a totally separate series of concert versions for the album. It didn't really work for me outside of the film on first listen. I'm not sure if repeated listens will change anything. The problem is, I have no desire to listen to it again.

*listens to Superman: The Movie*

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Anyways,l we should be grateful to get any new score from Williams at this point even if it's not his most inspired

I want to see the film so hear any unreleased music, but I suspect we pretty much got most of it


Here's a case where he probably should have just arranged and recorded a totally separate series of concert versions for the album.

I'm not sure it would change anything

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Here's a case where he probably should have just arranged and recorded a totally separate series of concert versions for the album.

I'm not sure it would change anything

He shouldn't.

I always prefer the pure film intentions on score albums (in complete, un-microedited form of course).

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Overall, I find the score pleasing but relatively anonymous. And my guess is, it will swell predictably, and with too much schmaltz, in the film. We tend to bash Jablonsky and Zimmer for their lack of subtlety - but The Book Thief does not exactly tread lightly either.

If it were any lighter there would probably be no music at all. To my ears this music anything but obtrusive. But of course even this can be too much for certain scenes. I am just sad music has lost its place as a story telling partner and become a meek specter at the feast, who durst not show its face in fear of being shouted at and lambasted outright. Of course when it clobbers you near to death and into submission with sheer wall of sound it is innovative and perfectly ok.

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The opening and closing tracks are always great on a Williams album. It's the stuff in between that fails to amaze me.

I am very much impressed myself. It is just the kind of music I have hoped Williams would write again. I know there are familiar orchestral techniques and styles at work here but it doesn't really diminish the appeal of the themes and beautiful soloist work in my ears. I find this to be a very appealing score. There are a few obviously atmospheric tracks of suspense that might work better in the film than on the album but on the whole I find the selection of music very good on the album.

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I'm also wondering if the current trend in film scoring is not cramping Williams style . Maybe he's toning down the development of his themes on purpose so the score draws less attention to itself

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I do not hear any lack of development here if you talk about themes and variations in this score for example. If you are talking about sufficient time to expand the material in the film, then perhaps it is not afforded so much in The Book Thief.

Some themes and motifs work as "triggers" that announce to the audience that something is about to happen or that some action has a leitmotivic meaning. Here the cascading piano figure works as such a trigger that figures into Liesel's fascination with books.

The main theme is reserved for the more important moments like the opening, where it is introduced and the learning to read and write montages.

The Death Theme (or so I would gather) works very well as a bookend that opens and closes the score and appears whenever a meaningful death in Liesel's life happens plus it gains a sort of beatific acceptance in the Finale, which I found very endearing.

The Family Hubermann theme (again my own guess for the meaning) also receives several different variations throughout.

Liesel's relationship with Max is portrayed by the changes in the theme's instrumentation, which is what often works here to offer variety and meaning to different renditions of the themes.

Oh and of course Williams pulls all the main ideas together in the final suite, where the music is allowed to shine independently away from the picture.

The number of themes in itself of course does not make a score great but I just wanted to illustrate how many different ideas are at work, which in itself might affect the way the music develops as these strands all develop separately (and sometimes interact) rather than having a single idea to tie the movie together and just offer variations on that.

These are just my few observations after listening to the album about 3 times.

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I consider it a very good effort by the maestro. It certainly is better than Lincoln but doesn't even come close to War Horse. It's a subtle and atmospheric score which envokes a magical feeling reminding of the Potter scores at times. The score doesn't feel new and stays in familiar grounds, not a problem for me.

What i really like is the number of themes and motifs in the score. Incanus mentioned the Main Theme, the Death Theme (opening track one), the Family Hubermann theme (i guess its the theme playing in "New Parents and a New Home") and the Book Motif (Cascading Piano figure). These themes are all developed in multiple tracks and are also presented in the End Credits suite.

But there are two other themes which i also consider the best material of the score:

First of all the Max and Liesel theme appearing in "Max and Liesel", "The Departure of Max", "Max Lives" and at the beginning of "Finale". It's a beautiful and tender theme and i had a big smile every time its played. It's the best theme in the score, just classic JW and strangely doesn't feature in the End Credits suite.

Then you have the wonderful theme playing in "The Visitor at Himmelstreet". It can be heard again in the End Credits suite.

For me the best tracks are "Max Lives", "The Visitor at Himmelstreet", "The Snow Fight", "The Foot Race", "Finale" and "Ilsa's Library"

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Just finished listening to the complete soundtrack.

I'd say it's an average score, that gave me the impression that was either written quickly or that the composer was bored with it a bit.

No developments, variants and variations of themes or expansions..

In no way I could say that this is a masterpiece, because that would mean that I think it's on the same level with Schindler's List, E.T., Hook. etc, which I don't.

I would hope that the best of the themes, the one that opens track 1, would be used or expanded more, but it turned out that it's just an introductory theme to the main theme. (unless it's used more in the film)

One other good moment is the theme of "The Visitor at Himmel Street", unfortunately heard only once. Williams must have realised that it's indeed good, so he repeated it in the end credits.

The "Rudy is taken" track is another high moment, reminiscing strings' moments from Star Wars III.

The main theme itself, as i've said, though mermorable and with interesting harmony, is uninteresting overall, never deviating from the basic rhythmic idea.

Surely, one of the soundtracks I won't be listening as much as others..

I would encourage you to listen even more closely! This is actually one of Williams' more densely developed scores, in terms of thematic and "interthematic" construction. Themes and motifs morph into one another at different times, often in very subtle ways, but I'd say the very opening piano figure -seemingly so "inconsequential"- is a really important clue (it pops up in all kinds of different guises). And of course, that initial piano theme is treated to a beautiful transformation in the Finale.

I can pretty much assure you, given the motivic work-out this score actually is, that this was no rushed or unenthusiastic effort. But it is very subtle!

I was talking more about the thematic expansion and development of the themes themselves.

yes, the opening piano theme is transformed to the major theme at the Finale.

and from the same piano theme we get that rising and falling scale figure theme, which in turn acts as counterpoint to the main theme sometimes.

But the theme itself stays like that..

The Schindler's list theme is expanded much more and is often combined with very beautiful counterpoint (I think in "I could have done more", most prominently)

Anyway, I still think this is a weaker score for the John Williams standards.

I would maybe expect something like this from a very well trained and knowledgable starting film composer.

Of course maybe all this was asked by the film director: to use simpler themes and don't expand much upon them and to be very subtle.

(although on the other hand , from what i remember Marianelli's Jane Eyre is very subtle, but I like it much more than the Book thief and find it much more interesting)

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Anyway, I still think this is a weaker score for the John Williams standards.

I would maybe expect something like this from a very well trained and knowledgable starting film composer.

The problem is that Hollywood doesn't invest in "very well trained and knowledgable starting film composer" anymore.

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Anyway, I still think this is a weaker score for the John Williams standards.

I would maybe expect something like this from a very well trained and knowledgable starting film composer.

The problem is that Hollywood doesn't invest in "very well trained and knowledgable starting film composer" anymore.

That's very true!

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Anyway, I still think this is a weaker score for the John Williams standards.

I would maybe expect something like this from a very well trained and knowledgable starting film composer.

The problem is that Hollywood doesn't invest in "very well trained and knowledgable starting film composer" anymore.

Plus the bar is set impossibly high for Williams. The preconceived notion of what his scores should be to try to achieve work against him as people squint with critical brow at every note as if it should contain the world's wisdom.

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Anyway, I still think this is a weaker score for the John Williams standards.

I would maybe expect something like this from a very well trained and knowledgable starting film composer.

The problem is that Hollywood doesn't invest in "very well trained and knowledgable starting film composer" anymore.

Plus the bar is set impossibly high for Williams. The preconceived notion of what his scores should be to try to achieve work against him as people squint with critical brow at every note as if it should contain the world's wisdom.

Exactly. We wait for every new JW score like for the second coming or something and whenever it's not up to the standard of his best works, we feel desappointed, almost cheated, no matter how well-done this soundtrack objectively is. The Book Thief my not be JW's best, but he has written a lot scores like this (in terms of appeal or lack thereof) in his career, so this doesn't mean anything as far as JW's talent (and his current form) is concerned.

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Anyway, I still think this is a weaker score for the John Williams standards.

I would maybe expect something like this from a very well trained and knowledgable starting film composer.

The problem is that Hollywood doesn't invest in "very well trained and knowledgable starting film composer" anymore.

Plus the bar is set impossibly high for Williams. The preconceived notion of what his scores should be to try to achieve work against him as people squint with critical brow at every note as if it should contain the world's wisdom.

Exactly. We wait for every new JW score like for the second coming or something and whenever it's not up to the standard of his best works, we feel desappointed, almost cheated, no matter how well-done this soundtrack objectively is. The Book Thief my not be JW's best, but he has written a lot scores like this (in terms of appeal or lack thereof) in his career.

I don't see any harm for everyone in reviewing the score and telling an honest opinion.

I personally don't feel cheated or disappointed. I have many Williams scores that I love and think they are magnificent.

The thing I don't understand (and I'm talking generally), is why we must consider every single Williams score a masterpiece and why anyone can get angry if someone doesn't consider it a masterpiece.

The given thing is that every Williams score is very well crafted and written. The man knows music better than anyone and it shows. Noone can deny that.

But there is a big difference from a very well crafted score to a very interesting score. It's not the same thing.

And still I don't see any harm in saying that this or that is more or less interesting.

eg. if we consider the more delicate scores of Williams, i personally think that Stanley and Iris is much more interesting and mature than the Book thief.

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In some of the longer string statements, I sense a little bit of John Barry and maybe even Gabrial Yared.


I see some similar string writing to this track.

Though not as sweeping or overegged. Of course English Patient was written for an epic, Book Thief is a much smaller film.

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The Book Thief gets a disappointing 1/12 stars on Rogerebert.com. JW's score is mentioned.

Oooh scatchingly critical Ebert strikes The Book Thief down.

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Anyway, I still think this is a weaker score for the John Williams standards.

I would maybe expect something like this from a very well trained and knowledgable starting film composer.

The problem is that Hollywood doesn't invest in "very well trained and knowledgable starting film composer" anymore.

Plus the bar is set impossibly high for Williams.

If Williams is indeed the best composer in the world, then there is no bar set too high for him!

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The Book Thief gets a disappointing 1/12 stars on Rogerebert.com. JW's score is mentioned.

Oooh scatchingly critical Ebert strikes The Book Thief down.

Ebert is dead, you idiot!

I keep forgetting that! Befuddlement, that's what it is! Godfrey Cheshire I should have said. Where is my media literacy these days?

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I've been listening to The Book Thief. Not surprisingly, I really enjoy it. Many of the tracks are so short that I do wish he'd been able to expand/develop them further. No the music is not "new" or "groundbreaking" or "innovative." Then again, those aren't words I associate with JW anyway. I do hear echoes of previous scores but re-imagined with JW's special blend of lyricism and beauty. Right now I rate it below War Horse and Lincoln, but it's still very good and there are several tracks that really resonate with me.

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The Book Thief gets a disappointing 1/12 stars on Rogerebert.com. JW's score is mentioned.

One twelfth of a star? That's pretty bad!

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These are mostly young male hipster critics, brought up on a poisonous diet of Zimmer And RC. Anything symphonic or orchestral or melodic sounds boring and dated to them. Same way a classically made film with patience seems boring to them. I think modern film critics for the most part today or unfit to judge musical scores.

Hipsters go see movies like The Book Thief? Lololol

Only when they're paid to write about them. Sell outs!

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