Letters from Iwo Jima (soundtrack) by Kyle Eastwood & Michael Stevens



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Letters from Iwo Jima by Kyle Eastwood & Michael Stevens

Letters from Iwo Jima  - D1 One sheet Poster
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Letters from Iwo Jima (Soundtrack) by Kyle Eastwood & Michael Stevens

Letters from Iwo Jima
Composed by Kyle Eastwood & Michael Stevens
Milan Records

Rating: 6/10

Buy Letters from Iwo Jima by Kyle Eastwood & Michael Stevens  from Amazon.com


Listen to this soundclip of LETTERS FROM IWO JIMAMain Titles (583 kb)

Listen to this soundclip of LETTERS FROM IWO JIMAPreparing for the Battle (379 kb)

More clips from Letters from Iwo Jima at Amazon.com


“The script and images tell the heartbreak of the story and the score comes in to emotionally nudge the audience ever-so-slightly at important moments.”

Notes for Iwo Jima
Review by Christopher Coleman

Following up the somewhat disappointing FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS comes the highly touted film - much more of a "co-film" than a chronological-sequel, LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA. If you didn't have any foreknowledge regarding Clint Eastwood's FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS, you might have been disappointed by, among other things, the almost total disregard for the Japanese side of the battle of Iwo Jima. Then again you might have been among those who knew that simulatenously filming with FLAGS was LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA and that the other side of story was forthcoming. Released in Japan in December 2006, LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA qualified for consideration for the Golden Globes, from which it walked away with the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film.  Now, it also stands poised to possibly take home two Oscars for Best Director and Best Picture.

For Flags, Clint Eastwood and Lennie Niehaus collaborate for the bulk of the score while son, Kyle Eastwood, is credited with one track, "Knock Knock."  Moving on to LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA director Eastwood promotes his son, Kyle, and adds Michael Stevens to provide the totality of film's score. This was a somewhat surprising move on at least two counts: one, entrusting a film of this nature to a relative newcomer to the film music world and two, to someone who's noted musical interests and talents lay in other genres than film scoring. 

These films, masterfully crafted as they were by Clint Eastwood, do not require a huge score filled with barrages of brassiness or other WWII musical staples. As much as this type of music is beloved and appreciated, it would be a faux pas here...especially in the case of LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA.

Kyle Eastwood and Michael Stevens carry on the simplistic nature of the score established for FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS especially in its main theme.  In what could easily be called a counterpart theme to the main theme of FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS, Eastwood and Stevens construct a similarly simple theme for Letters that follows all the earmarks of a Clint Eastwood score.  Interestingly enough this main theme is constructed in an eastern pattern, but is presented through western instruments.  It is this theme, and endless variations of it, that bear the musical burden for the film. 

This simple theme is most often played on solo piano, later augmented by strings, and then solo trumpet and snare drums help interject some militaristic purposefulness before the piece concludes. The melancholy piece has an almost music-box-feel, that set's a dreamlike atmosphere for this theatre of nightmares.  When the piano solo is recorded with extreme reverb as in Letter's Montage (2) and Kuribayashi's Farewell Letter (9), the feeling becomes even more weighty, even more isolated.  Letters' central theme is played over all of the main characters and their storylines.  While this does paint these very different men with a bit of a broad stroke, there simply wasn't enough score in the film to develop secondary themes.  Still, if there had been more use of musical score, it would have been an improvement to see some differentiation between these characters via theme or motif.

Another thought on Letter's theme - in the film, the theme serves to connect western audiences to the eastern side of this famous battle.  As both sides make surprising discoveries about their enemy, Eastwood and Steven's theme goes a long way in painting an empathetic picture for the Japanese men that found their ways to Iwo Jima.  A more traditional, Japanese, theme would likely serve to create the exact opposite effect for many in the audience.  If this was their conscious intent, then bravo to them, because it does work.

As musical score is utilized very sparingly throughout the film,  Milan's soundtrack release is unavoidably short, as it contains only 37 minutes of music. This abbreviated-fate would have been shared by the soundtrack release for FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS had it only presented original score.  While there are 13 tracks featured in the Letters release, what the listener takes away from the soundtrack (if not haunted by) is that central theme. 

Only one track hints at anything that sounds like Japanese instrumentation, Preparing for Battle (3).  Aside from the pivotal "Song for the Defense of Iwo Jima" (10) sung by Japanese students and the classical "Dinner Party" (7), the majority of music wanders along on the scales of somber, tragic, honorable and dissonant.

The script and images tell the heartbreak of the story and the score comes in to emotionally nudge the audience ever-so-slightly at important moments. Some may not find these composers' musical choices to their personal liking and, admittedly, I was initially underwhelmed by this score as well.  After seeing the film and many successive listens of the score, my opinion about the music has changed.  It's an interesting first effort for Kyle Eastwood and Michael Stevens...an effort that does its job in the film; however, aside from the central theme there isn't much to grab hold of.  If I were rating this score as heard in film, it would certainly garner an 8, but as a soundtrack CD, it regrettably falls short of that.  For those that see and appreciate the film; however, you are likely have a strange connection to the theme from LETTERS OF IWO JIMA and, in the end, might find this soundtrack in your collection.

Rating: 6/10

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Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 Main Titles 4:17  ***
2 Letters Montage 3:18  ***
3 Preparing for the Battle 2:59  ***
4 Suicide 3:20  ***
5 Enemy Fire 1:39  ***
6 Shimizu's Past 3:07  ***
7 Dinner Party 3:17  **
8 Nearing the End 2:11  ***
9 Kuribayashi's Farewell Letter 2:03  ***
10 Song for the Defense of Iwo Jima 1:18  **
11 Kuribayashi Pleads for Death 2:55  **
12 End Titles Part I 2:55  ****
13 End Titles Part II 4:22  ***
  Total Running Time (approx) 37 minutes  




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