"As pessimistic as it is — you have to squint
hard to find the barest flicker of redemption in its denouement
— 'Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead' is also curiously exhilarating.
Some of this comes from the simple thrill of witnessing something,
or rather everything, done well. Even the overwrought performances
— Mr. Finney’s growls, Mr. Hawke’s twitches — have integrity and
conviction. This is a melodrama, after all, and its lifeblood is
in the manic acting, just as surely as it is in the plaintive horns
of Carter Burwell’s score. " - A. O. Scott, New York Times,
Oct. 26, 2007.
"... Lumet's sophisticated understanding of
the material extends to the soundtrack, which doesn't try to enlist
a subjective response but is used to create distance. Composer
Carter Burwell doesn't underscore most scenes. The music is used
mainly in the transitions between scenes, as a sardonic or rueful
commentary on what has gone before. Everything supports an overall
vision. Everything is of a piece." - Mick LaSalle, San Francisco
Chronicle, Nov. 2, 2007
"...Carter Burwell, who has done wonderful,
ironically charged music for the Coen brothers, contributes a score
that is oddly routine and overtly melodramatic." - Michael
Phillips, Chicago Tribune, Nov. 2, 2007.
I had never met Sidney Lumet before he contacted
me about replacing the score to this film. Sidney felt for some
reason that the original score (which I haven't heard) wasn't working
and that the music needed to tell the audience more about the characters.
I took this advice seriously because Lumet does not slather on
the underscore like most American directors. Indeed, as he reminded
me, many of his best films have no score, like "Network" and "Dog
Day Afternoon". In this case the film is a family melodrama
wrapped in a crime drama.
There are a few good points in replacing a score,
even as one must feel sympathy for the first composer. First, everyone
is a step closer to knowing what works. Second, there is no time
for vague exploration. In this case the music was written and recorded
in about three weeks - not such a terrible schedule as they go.
Cleaving to the idea of melodrama, the score is
not shy about playing the plot as the characters quickly become
slaves to its events. I almost always prefer to underplay a film
rather than overplay (viz "No
Country For Old Men" with no perceptible score), but in
this case Sidney felt we should not be shy about the "melodrama" and
so the score sounds a bit overwrought at first - at least to me.
The theme which opens the film in the manner of a "crime drama" comes
eventually to play the recriminations of the family. Another theme
plays Andy (Philip Seymour Hoffman's character), who in many ways
is the driving force behind the implosion of this family, and as
such I wanted the audience to sympathize with him. The ride they
take with him will be all the more appalling if we feel for him.
And the awful ride is what the film is all about.
Directed by Sidney Lumet
Written by Kelly Masterson
Produced by Michael Cerenzie and Brian Linse
Composed, Orchestrated and Conducted by Carter
Music Scoring Mixer: Mike Farrow
Contractor: Sandy Park
Recorded and Mixed at Clinton Recording
Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Albert
Finney, Marisa Tomei.
U.S. Release October, 2007
the Blu-Ray DVD
This score was never released on CD. Here, for demo
purposes, are some samples from the score. Click on "mp3" for
an excerpt, or on the Flash triangle to stream the entire piece.