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Last January, waves of chatter came rushing out of Sundance with glowing words for a little American drama that has steadily enchanted audiences since. Though it can’t be credited with much innovation, David Lowery’s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is an old-fashioned tale of love and crime told with heart, eager to pay tribute to Americana pioneers. Though its sun-kissed cinematography and trio of lead performances by Rooney Mara, Ben Foster and Casey Affleck have been the main talking points, the film earns most of its magic by way of Daniel Hart’s musical contributions, at once delicate and tense, alert and dreaming.
Classically trained violinist Hart, who has released music under his own name as well as with his bands The Physics of Meaning and Dark Rooms, has little film experience: his only other scoring credit is on Lowery’s previous film, St. Nick. But that’s about to change. His work on Saints is memorable and precise, a perfect fit for the film that beautifully stands on its own. His string-heavy compositions are wistful and light as daydreams, yet, from the nostalgia of “Do You Remember That Day” to the slight dissonance of “Ruth Tries to Write”, always suggest the violence of emotions below the surface. It’s a subtle and layered score that, though deeply rooted in tradition, always feels alive, fitting in somewhere between Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’ haunting work on The Assassination of Jesse James and more cacophonic Lawless score.
The songs composed for the soundtrack deserve a mention, too: between the Motown-esque ‘60s throwback of Andrew Tinker’s “Ain’t Long Enough”, Curtis Heath and John Graney’s bluesy “Been Waiting” and the soulful country of “Siren Call” and “Here We Are”, which both sound like they were written half a century ago, Hart’s compositions find a slew of striking complements that make Saints’ a most well-rounded soundtrack – and one that, though it might not turn the Academy’s head, more than deserves a spin or two. Or more.
You can listen to part of the soundtrack here.