The Painted Veil (soundtrack) by Alexander Desplat



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The Painted Veil by Alexander Desplat

The Painted Veil  - D1 One sheet Poster
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The Painted Veil (Soundtrack) by Alexander Desplat

The Painted Veil
Composed by Alexander Desplat
Milan Records

Rating: 7/10

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Listen to this soundclip of The Painted VeilThe Painted Veil (379 kb)

Listen to this soundclip of The Painted VeilKitty's Theme (422 kb)

Listen to this soundclip of The Painted VeilRiver Waltz (422 kb)

More clips from The Painted Veil at


“Vastly more engaging than his Oscar nominated score for THE QUEEN, Alexander Desplat's work for THE PAINTED VEIL settles down beneath striking cinematography, on-point-acting, and engaging directing to be one of the more effective dramatic scores for a period-film in recent memory. ”

Subtly Satisfying
Review By Christopher Coleman

Slipping under the 2006-Awards-wire, came the Warner Independent film THE PAINTED VEIL. The film being adapted from the 1925 book by W. Somerset Maugham, tells the tale of one Kitty Fane and her journey of self-discovery - a journey which took her from England to Hong Kong and back again.  On the way, she learns of the pains of love, of life and of death.  Aside from the clear abilities of stars and produdcers Edward Norton and Naomi Watts, the talents of screewriter, Ron Nyswaner,  director John Curran, and composer Alexander Desplat combined to deliver one of 2006's finest films.  Another fine film mysteriously and totally ignored by The Academy.

Alexander Desplat's work for THE PAINTED VEIL is subtly satisfying.  This particular effort from Desplat ranges from the oddly, contemporary title theme, to the light and introspective "Kitty's Theme", to the romantic, "River Waltz."  As the story centers around two westerners, it shouldn't seem too strange that the score is predominantly western.  Then again, given that the majority of the film is set in China, it might considered a little strange that a stronger eastern presence isn't felt in the score.   Perhaps this peculiarity is intentional, as one of the subplots of the film being the tension between Western Imperialists with their "new ways" and the Chinese and their ancient ways.  All in all, its a score that does its job well enough on screen and has some playability as a stand-alone soundtrack.  At the risk of reading a bit too much into the instrumentation, perhaps, just as the culture of the Chinese is being overrun and ignored by the British, so the Chinese culture is overrun by western in the construction of the music.

The film starts with some of the most engaging opening titles of the last year underscored by Desplat's suprisingly modern, title theme.  The title theme manages to evoke images of Dean Witter or New York Life television commercials more than it does 1920's England or least it does for the first 45 seconds.  After a pensive start, one of the few doses of Eastern flavor is performed as a chorus of woodwinds join the piano, percussion and strings.  The piece evolves from a business-freneticism dominated by jittery piano and percussion to an organic, nearly primitive mix of deep percussion and languishing string work.  Desplat's title theme is re-arranged and used effectively and frequently throughout the score.

It's difficult to call it a secondary theme as "River Waltz" (4) functions as the love-theme of the film and THE PAINTED VEIL, in the end, could be called a complicated romance.  Interestingly, the complexities of the plot are reflected in the nuances of Alexander Desplat's waltz.  As portrayed in the film, it is this waltz that plays as the two main characters meet and share their first dance at a sophisticated English party.  It might be best to say that the title theme represents intense, borderline-chaotic surrounds of the characters of Walter and Kitty, while the waltz represents the emotions that run between them. 

Two solid themes like the title theme and River Waltz, might have been enough, but THE PAINTED VEIL features one more significant theme which adds another intriguing dimension to the score.  Kitty's Theme (5) played on woodwinds and piano meanders from innocent, to sorrowful to playful.  Here Alexander Desplat creates a theme that initially represents the childish, self-centered Kitty of England and then later, the maturing-Kitty who has truly learned selfless-love in "Mourning Tears" (15).  The latter rendition being a much sadder version than the first, omitting the brightness of the piano completely.

Aside from these strong themes, there are a number of other high points on the soundtrack.  Composer Erik Satie's slow tempoed, "Gnossienne No. 1" (2) further develops the somber mystery presented in the film's first act.  "The Water Wheel" (7) and "The Convent" (13) are both uptempo and bright - helping to bring some emotional balance to the soundtrack. "Cholera" (16) is menacing piece - dark and purposeful.  Finally, there is a significant difference between the film and the soundtrack release by Grammaphone.  The track "From Shanghai to London" (19) is not used in the film at all.  Oddly enough, one of the happier and more enjoyable pieces on the soundtrack is replaced in the film.  The track brings Kitty's Theme into that more pensive and "corporate" feel of the title theme.  As far as the storytelling goes, it makes perfect sense as the character now returns home to England from China...a completely changed woman.  In the film, a vocal piece is used; a French, vocal piece.  Aside from the French nuns in the film, and the fact that Alexander Desplat is half-French, and since my 2 years of French classes have long faded from any useful memory, any clear connection between the scene and this song was lost on me.  Still, kudos for Grammaphone for including the orchestral piece instead.

THE PAINTED VEIL brought home the Golden Globe award for Best Original Score yet somehow the film has avoided a single nomination by the Academy.  In a year that can't be called one of the strongest nominee classes in recent memory, it is more mystery that THE PAINTED VEIL has gone so's a crime.  Vastly more engaging than his Oscar nominated score for THE QUEEN, Alexander Desplat's work for THE PAINTED VEIL settles down beneath striking cinematography, on-point-acting, and engaging directing to be one of the more effective dramatic scores for a period film in recent memory.  Featuring the talents of pianist Lang Lang, Desplat's subtle score does it job well without calling too much attention to itself.  While it is more "western" than "eastern" and more contemporary than "period,"  the peculiarly weighted components of the is score work nicely.

Rating: 7/10


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Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 The Painted Veil 3:19  ****
2 Gnossienne No 1 (Erik Satie 1866-1925 3:24  ***
3 Colony Club 2:09  ****
4 River Waltz 2:24  ****
5 Kitty's Theme 3:08  ***
6 Death Convoy 2:50  ***
7 The Water Wheel 6:21  ****
8 The Lovers 1:27  ***
9 Promenade 2:06  ***
10 Kitty's Journey 2:51  ***
11 The Deal 3:23  ***
12 Walter's Mission 3:57  ****
13 The Convent 0:52  ****
14 River Waltz 2:27  ***
15 Morning Tears 1:52  ***
16 Cholera 4:23  ****
17 The End of Love 4:36  ***
18 The Funeral 0:53  ***
19 From Shanghai to London 2:03  ****
  Total Running Time (approx) 54 minutes  




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