When I saw the movie Requiem For A Dream last year, it was one of those films that I knew would take a long time for me to come back to. Although it was amazing to look at and quite engrossing, it was one that both visually and aurally assaults you and pretty much leaves you drained by the end. That's the effect that it's meant to have and it works quite well, but it also beats you down a bit. After taking a fair amount of time off, I decided to come back to the soundtrack for the film and see if it worked well on its own and whether it still had some of the same effects for me.
First off, as a sound sculpture, this soundtrack is quite amazing. It covers nearly all the bases and ranges between achingly beautiful pieces for stringed instruments to harsh-edged, almost industrial electronic pieces. It's diverse and given the imagery of the movie that it matches up with, it works amazingly.
The album is broken into three parts (like the movie, based on seasons) called Summer, Fall, and Winter. In each of these larger pieces different themes are revisited over and over again. Strings that start out beautiful and peaceful at the beginning of the album morph and mutate into stabbing weapons by the end of disc, attacking and matching the downward spirals of the lives in the movie while electronic ambience changes into more aggressive tones, making you wish for better times.
Mansell has once again proven himself very adept at creating pieces of music for a film (he also contributed the theme and a couple of pieces to director Aronofsky's first film Pi), and with the addition of the Kronos Quartet (an amazing ensemble of musicians in their own right) and an entire movie to sculpt for, he does amazing things again. One of my only problems with the disc (and this is minor, since it is a soundtrack) is that many of the tracks (some are as short as 10 or 20 seconds) don't feel like they are explored fully. With 33 tracks that total just over 50 minutes of time, sometimes Mansell has moved on to something else completely just as you start getting into a track. Again, this is mainly related to it being music for the movie (which also jumps around quite quickly sometimes), but it will leave you hanging at points.
Overall, this probably isn't a release that you'll find yourself listening to a lot, but it provides some very interesting sounds and works quite well as a whole. If you've seen the movie, you probably already know what you're getting into, but I'm also hoping that after having done the work with these two movies, it's spurs on Mansell (formerly of Pop Will Eat Itself) to expound on his ideas and create an actual entire album of his own. As it stands, though, his music for Requiem For A Dream is alternately beautiful, haunting, frightening, and touching, just like the movie itself.