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Atonement by Dario Marianelli


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Atonement (Soundtrack) by Dario Marianelli

Composed by Dario Marianelli
Decca Records (2007)

Rating: 9/10

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Listen to this soundclip of AtonementBriony (366 kb)

Listen to this soundclip of AtonementFarewell (353 kb)

Listen to this soundclip of Atonement

Elegy for Dunkirk (353 kb)

More clips from Atonement at


“Lush and emotional themes played by a skilled chamber orchestra and brilliant leads by pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet and cellist Caroline Dale are only the beginning for ATONEMENT.  Dario Marianelli takes his score into waters that have been rarely dived and the end result being one of 2007's top efforts.”

Of Letters and Stories
Review by Christopher Coleman

We've heard it said quite often, "They just don't make movies like that anymore."  Usually this refers to some beloved film from decades long gone.  Having watched the film and listened to the score countless times now, I'm happy to report that "they" most certainly do make movies "like that" today.  Director Joe Writght's adaptation of Ian McEwan's best selling book, ATONEMENT, is well written, finely acted, beautifully photographed, and engagingly edited. ATONEMENT is easily one of the best films of 2007 and features one of the year's most innovative, dramatic scores.

You might expect MARIANELLI's score to be of the standard, dramatic-romance variety, but McEwan's brilliant story and Wright's poignant telling of it demand much more than the standard fair.  Lush and emotional themes played by a skilled chamber orchestra and brilliant leads by pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet and cellist Caroline Dale are only the beginning for ATONEMENT.  Dario Marianelli takes his score into waters that have been rarely dived and the end result being one of 2007's top efforts.

Scoring and sound design find themselves intertwined to a greater and greater degree these days.  Usually, though, we are talking about horror films or even video games when it comes to the blurring of this audio-line, not a film set in the World War II era.  Yet that is the case for ATONEMENT.  Symbolized by the effect of an old, manual typewriter, this story about the power of words, the power of imagination to curse and the bless, is woven into every aspect of the film, including the score.  There are a number of scenes that feature other sound elements that crossover from design to score such as: the sudden strum of piano strings, the monotony of a ball thrown against a wall, the tension of a single piano key being hit repeatedly, or a church organ playing a wedding recessional. Still, the authoring of letters and stories, represented by typewriter, is the central symbol of the movie and is the score's most prominent and dynamic facet.

From the soundtrack's onset, "Briony," (track 1) we are introduced to the typewriter element. It's incorporation into the score elevates the in-film-music to a level of involvement that few scores have seen. Strung throughout the film and score just like any good musical theme would be, the typewriter returns in "With My Own Eyes" and "Come Back" (track 5, 11) and like "Briony" the effect is not just an arbitrary inclusion thereof, but MARIANELLI has clearly composed these pieces with the typewriter in mind as an actual instrument.  The employment of the typewriter actually reflects the mood and emotion of the scenes in which it appears.  Certainly not the first time this has been done, John Powell's innovative score for I AM SAM comes to mind, but ATONEMENT goes beyond a somewhat random incorporating real-world sound effects, making them apart of his musical score; matching pitch, key and tempo.

Now, as intriguing as the typewriter component is, DARIO MARIANELLI goes further.  "Elegy for Dunkirk" (track 10) offers another example of some clever composition. The piece is set to one of the most memorable shots of the film (truthfully in all of film in 2007) as what appears to be a single shot that must last over two minutes, we pan by a group of British soldiers singing together as we also see humanity breaking down before our eyes. Those very voices are worked directly into the score, fading in and out again, as the shot continues on by the choir.  Their inclusion helps make track 10 a stunning piece to indulge.

Following the palette of his breakout score for 2005's PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (which also featured the stellar piano performance of Jean-Yves Thibaudet), ATONEMENT also spotlights the piano and includes the lullaby-like strings and woodwinds also found therein. ATONEMENT; however, is it's darker, more tragic cousin.   Both are exceptional works, but ATONEMENT has greater depth and has to be considered among the composer's very best.

Ultimately, ATONEMENT is lushly sad, but oh so satisfying effort. Hearing the score and its real-world elements within the context of the film is a not-to-be-missed-experience. After such an experience subsequent listens to the Marianelli's score is even more tantalizing. For those who have not seen the film, the soundtrack will still deliver 50 minutes of pleasurable music. Although I have had the UK version of the soundtrack for many weeks, finally viewing the film gave me the chance to appreciate this score to much higher degree. ATONEMENT was well worth the wait and certainly earns all of the praise and award nominations being heaped upon it.

Rating: 9/10

ATONEMENT wins 2007 Academy Award for Best Musical Score.


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Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 Briony 1:45  ****
2 Robbie's Note 3:06  ****
3 Two Figures by a Fountain 1:16  ****
4 Cee, You and Tea 2:27  ****
5 With My Own Eyes 4:41  ***
6 Farewell 3:32  ****
7 Love Letters 3:12  ****
8 The Half Killed 2:11  *****
9 Rescue Me 3:20  ***
10 Elegy for Dunkirk 4:15  *****
11 Come Back 4:28  *****
12 Denouement 2:29  ****
13 The Cottage on the Beach 3:25  ****
14 Atonement 5:23  ****
15 Clair De Lune (Debussy) 5:41  ****
  Total Running Time (approx) 50 minutes  




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