From the first to the last note, James Horner
's score for The Spitfire Grill
is pure magic, but for some strange reason this is an often overlooked, and almost never mentioned, score. The Spitfire Grill
premiered at the Sundance film festival, and when the movie was about to get an official, nation wide, release, Horner was brought in to spice up the original score, written by some other composer, but instead he gave the film an entirely new and fresh score - one of the very finest in his career, so far.
With the music Horner perfectly captures the nature and the small town life in Gilead. Horner often says that writing music is very much like painting. The Spitfire Grill
is a perfect example of that philosophy and approach to scoring films. "The Trees", for instance, is a wonderful piece. When listening to that cue one can almost smell the leaves and the grass, and see the sun through the tree tops high above. Film music at its best! Another example is the twittering, bird like, flute motif, heard in "The Mystery of the Night" and "A Gift from the Forest", among other cues. That simple, but so incredibly effective, phrase creates, together with low woodwinds and harp, a wonderful nightish sound. It's as though you can almost feel the cool night breeze.
Horner uses a rather small orchestra, concisting of the traditional instruments - strings, brass, and woodwinds - as well as solo performances by piano, guitar and fiddle, for the score, and this creates a very warm, relaxed and lovely sound, not like anything we have heard by Horner before. The Spitfire Grill
is a big kick in the stomach for all the people who claim that Horner is unoriginal, "stuck in a rut" and without talent.
The music does not rely on themes that much - although there are of course themes - but mostly it is "just" textures and motifs (such as the already mentioned bird motif and a playfull and sparkling piano ditty). This will probably sound a little boring to some, I guess, but it is not. However, for persons who need themes to fully enjoy music, The Spitfire Grill
has one of the best - if not the best - and most lovely themes Horner has ever written. It is first presented in "Reading the Letters", performed by solo violin, and later taken up by the entire orchestra. I cannot express my love for this theme enough. It is a typical feel good theme, which will make you smile and your heart all warm. Once, when I was in the Air Force, we were out walking. I was tired, it was hot, my feet hurt and I felt miserable. Luckily I had brought my Walkman with me, and was listening to The Spitfire Grill
. When this theme started to play, life suddenly felt so much better. I forgot about my sore feet, the heavy backpack and I almost started to laugh. That is how good this theme is...
And that is how good this score is. It belongs in every film music collection, and the fact that this score wasn't even nominated for an Academy Award is, at least to me, a mystery, and a big shame. Horner has said that he really loves to score small, independent films, such as The Spitfire Grill
. It really shows, and I am really looking forward to Horner's next score in this genre. Let us all hope that the wait will not be too long.
Read other recent reviews by Andreas Lindahl: The Rock
, The Phantom of the Opera
, Peter Pan