Soundtrack Information



RCA Victor (09026-63882-2)

Release Date: 2002

Conducted by Harry Rabinowitz

Format: CD

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Track Listing

1. Possesso (Aria) 5:05
2. The British Museum 2:11
3. Gentle Possession 5:27
4. Discovering the Letters 3:24
5. Maud and Roland in North Yorkshire 3:21
6. Christabel's Room 1:58
7. Maud and Roland 3:41
8. Blanche's Diary 1:59
9. Etude to Christabel 2:37
10. Let Down Your Hair 3:51
11. Dolly Hides a Secret 2:42
12. Possession 5:15
13. Reading the Letters 5:17
14. Blanche's Suicide 2:11
15. Exile in Brittany 2:28
16. Renewed Correspondence 4:05
17. You Have a Daughter 2:27
18. Journey to Whitby 1:48
19. A Hotel Room in Whitby 1:54
20. Poignant Thoughts 1:56
21. Possession 3:27
  Total Album Time: 67:04

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Review: Possession

by Andrew Granade August 24, 2003
3.5 / 5 Stars

Before we begin, I need to confess something.  You see, I have a problem – I like to read.  No, really I love to read.

"But that's not a problem, that's a gift!" I can almost hear high school English teachers around the country cry.  True, in many ways it is a gift, but when it comes to movies it is definitely a problem, even a curse, some would say.

Hollywood loves to make movies out of novels.  "Why make an original idea when you can buy someone else's?" seems to be the dominate philosophy governing movie production.  That sounds fine, but remember that I have a problem.  I admit that I do get excited when I discover a book in which I have delighted is going to be translated into a movie.  I line up with everyone else, longing to see how the director has interpreted the vision in my head.  It is my book after all, as much as it is yours, and I want to see how it is going to appear through someone else's eyes.

I am usually disappointed.

Possession is not a bad movie.  In fact, it is a very good one.  The acting is fine throughout, the cinematography beautiful, the characters rich and complex, and the plot engaging.  But it is not like the movie in my mind and so many interesting characters and descriptions were necessarily left out.  I feel the same way about Gabriel Yared's score for the movie.  It is not a bad score.  In fact, it is a very good one, but it is not the sound I imagined for the film.

I believe my primary problem is that the emotions generated on screen are subtle.  For both the modern researchers and the poets, love is experienced in a closed society, that of academia for the former and Victorian England for the latter.  Certainly they share intimate moments and verbally spar but there are few moments where emotion spills out, drenching them in overwrought sentiment.  Yared's score, on the other hand seems to try and compensate this restrained approach to love.  It is as though two sets of lovers' romantic tension and passion are handed to us on a platter.  Instead of allowing the audience to intuitively grasp their moods, we are repeatedly told from the opening credits that this is a movie about love, yes love, and you are going to get the point that this movie is about love and before you leave you will understand love and...  It becomes grating after a while as it is out of step with the movie it is accompanying.

Perhaps if Yared had kept this hyperbolic musical sentiment constrained to the film's flashback sequences I would not have been bothered.  The music almost fits that period and the flowery poetry composed by the couple.  But it is wrong for the colder world of academia and research and is jarring when it accompanies both the modern pair's work and play.

Apart from the movie, however, Yared's score stands up rather well.  The main theme, the Possession theme if you will, is actually two themes in one and is introduced in the cue "Gentle Possession."  The first part consists of a figure which falls a fifth, A down to D, just to rise back to where it began and then continue up to C.  It is then repeated down a step, G down to C and back up the octave.  This first part, which almost aches as it travels up and down in duple time, is poignantly offset by the second part which shifts into a lilting triple time.  This second section seems to look back at the first and ask if love is longing, as originally presented, or, as in the second incarnation, playful.

The entire cue, and indeed the entire theme, is a juxtaposition of these two ideas in duple and triple with the original falling fifth figure, representing longing, winning out in the end and failing to resolve upward to the tonic.  This denied resolution leaves you hanging, waiting for the next chord that does not come until the final two cues, "Poignant Thoughts" and "Possession."  In the former, a variation of the original theme is presented in the piano as a final nod to the past   The theme is then handed off to its original orchestration in the latter cue.  This time, the longing theme in duple time is ornamented with an appoggiatura figure that leaps up a third and then falls a half step.  The triple time theme is then presented in duple as the two aspects of love come together to create a whole and resolution is finally achieved.  In all it is a very fitting musical metaphor for the film.

One other notable cue is "Possessio (aria)" With a nod to Patrick Doyle, Yared has rewritten his main theme for Possession into a song performed by a classical singer, in this case Ramón Vargas.  Although the appearance of a song based on the main themes can be horribly off-base (anyone remember the end of Tan Dun's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon?), in this case the addition is worthwhile and adds to the recording.

The score stands so well on its own it makes me long to see the movie for which it was written.  As I said, I have a problem, but at least I have a solution.  I can listen to the score for the beautiful piece of music it is and then go read the book.

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