The Painted Veil
Composed by: Alexandre Desplat
Performed by Prague Symphony Orchestra
Featuring: Piano Soloist Lang Lang and Electric Cello Performed By Vincent Segal
Distributed by: Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
The Painted Veil, based upon a novel by W. Somerset Maugham, centers about a young unlikely couple who meet at a party in the early 1900s and are married soon after. Kitty (Naomi Watts), a London socialite, simply did not know what she was getting into when marrying Dr. Walter Fane (Ed Norton) and is in for a culture shock when she moves back with him to Shanghai, China. It is here that Dr. Fane conducts his studies of infectious diseases. Bored to tears in her new home with her new husband, Kitty hopes for someone to rescue her from the tedious life she has created for herself. That is, until Dr. Fane decides that they are moving to the interior of China to care for those suffering from the cholera epidemic. It is here, while working side-by-side with her husband that she finds new love for him and a new calling for herself.
The Painted Veil is a love story in an exotic setting, deserving of a soundtrack of musical composition filled with beauty tinted with an exotic flare. To achieve this, the powers that be called upon composer Alexandre Desplat, piano soloist Lang Lang, and cellist Vincent Segal. Desplat is a French composer known for his work on the soundtracks of such movies as Girl with the Pearl Earring, Hostage and The Queen. Lang Lang is a virtuoso pianist from China who found his passion for the instrument at the age of three. At the age of 25, Lang Lang is counted among the greats, having performed in concert in venues all over the world. French cellist Vincent Segal also took up music at a very early age. Segal has dabbled in both classical and contemporary music and his excellence with the electric cello has captured the interest of a variety of musicians who have invited Segal to perform on their albums. With Desplat as composer and the Prague Symphony Orchestra, Lang Lang and Vincent Segal as performers, how could this soundtrack go wrong?
The musical score of The Painted Veil Soundtrack is piano-rich, a composition seemingly created to show off the talents of Lang Lang, who does not disappoint. Alexandre Desplat’s composition suggests that he is very much attuned to the characters feelings throughout the movie. While rich and robust in the beginning, it takes on a haunted quality at times, a reflection of Kitty’s thoughts as she realizes the life she has married into. In fact, much of the soundtrack is dark, especially the tracks which deal with Walter’s mission in China and the diseases he is fighting. When you realize the somber outlook of a man attempting to fight disease with the meager medical and scientific resources of the early 1900s and add that to the idea of a woman trapped in a marriage of convenience and despair, you begin to understand the darkness that prevails throughout much of the soundtrack. Even the track, The Lovers, contains dark undertones amidst the beauty accentuated by the string section and the piano. However, there are some light moments, such as The Water Wheel, an upbeat composition containing an amazing percussion solo. A short track, entitled The Convent, is especially light and airy with an exotic flair. It is, I feel, too short for such an enjoyable track.
The soundtrack of The Painted Veil is indeed a beautiful composition despite the darkness woven throughout. The talents of the soloist performers are perfectly integrated with that of the Prague Symphony Orchestra. It should be interesting to note that Desplat did not only compose the music for this soundtrack, but actually performed in it, supplying keyboards, percussion, piano and flute when needed. I enjoyed the talents of Lang Lang – I had heard of him in the past, but never truly sampled his work until this soundtrack. I am not surprised to have learned that Desplat won both a Golden Globe for Best Original Score and a LAFCA Award for Best Music for his composition of The Painted Veil Soundtrack. These are awards well-earned. After having listened to the Hostage Soundtrack and Lust, Caution, one of his most recent works, I am certain that Alexandre Desplat is a name we will be hearing about quite often and with great praise. If you love classical composition with an exotic flare, The Painted Veil will make an excellent addition to your music collection.