Home | Movie-Reviews | Soundtrack-Reviews | TV Series | About the site | Links

Original Title:

Hong Kong 2006

Peter Kam

Isabella - OST

Review: "Isabella" is a magical drama with a great atmosphere. Critics didn't just leave cinemas deeply impressed by the film itself, but were also blown away by a fantastic soundtrack, which eventually won the movie a "Silver Bear" Award for the best film score at the Berlin Filmfestspiele. Actually, there is nothing more to add to this fact except maybe that the music from Peter Kam would have deserved an Academy Award, too.
Granted, if you listen to this soundtrack too often you might find yourself quite depressed and deeply saddened, but that's something you won't be able to avoid, as it's very unlikely that you don't listen to these magnificent compositions over and over again in a row, especially since the music unfolds an irresistible magical charm. The different titles are all very characteristic on their own and the many acoustic guitar pieces brilliantly convey the Macau- and Portugal feeling. The songs are all very dreamy and simply wonderful, so that Peter Kam, who already delivered great work with his OST to "Perhaps Love", created his greatest masterpiece to date with "Isabella". On my personal list of my absolute favorite composers he easily reserved himself a spot at a top position.

The CD offers a great number of tracks and many of them are rather short. However, that's not a problem at all, as the different tracks make for an excellent whole and give the soundtrack the feel of being all of a piece. Its true charm the "Isabella" OST unfolds with its warm and sad guitar pieces, like "Echoes", "Isabella I, "Road" or "To the Heavens". These songs will wrap around you with a cozy sound layer, and the expertise of the guitar play, which also gets supported by some mourningful violine sounds, will absolutely take your breath away.
"Isabella I" depicts the main motif, of course, which as already said is played by a guitar and evokes strong feelings of longing and loneliness in us. The concurrent violin play does its part to give this very gloomy song a fitting wall of sound. In "Isabella III" the motif is taken on again, this time experiencing some small changes, for example a piano that plays along towards the end.

In "Isabella II" the main motif is only recognizable later on, as the song is introduced to us with some mysterious sounding glockenspiel, which bestows something fairy-tale-like upon this track.
Many of the tracks also can enchant you without great guitar work, and instead will win you over with some beautiful piano compositions. One of these titles is "Voice of the Past", which for sure is one of the CD's highlights. The bright piano, which plays a very lonely melody is eventually accompanied by a violine, which gives the song an even more melancholic character. "Corpse" is a piece in which a piano and a guitar play a nice duet, that shifts from its more depressive tunes to a more playful and rhythmic melody, that still comes along with a somewhat dark motif, yet. In "Ritual I" and "Ritual II" a guitar, piano and strings work out a heart-wrenchingly beautiful and sad tune.
"She Stalks", "Exploration" and "Sleeping Beauty" play the same theme, which with its plucked dull sounds of a cello and the use of a piano, reminds us of Wong Kar-Wai's "In the Mood for Love", also creating the same feeling of solitariness and feelings of being lost, within the listener.

There are also some dialogue tracks to be found on the CD, which build a nice bridge to the film, and thus don't feel futile at all. Moreover, composer Peter Kam also works some nice beats into his songs, which stand in nice contrast to the rest of the tracks, as they are imbued with a more playful rhythm. "Ripples", for example, focuses on some very portuguese-like guitar play. "Memories" on the other hand reminds us a bit of circus music, because of its bright accordion sounds, but without making this song standing too much in contrast to the rest of the CD, as it finds its way back to its melancholic roots again. The same goes for "A Story in Macau", even though the more lively rhythm remains apparent until the very end, giving this song a more hopeful character.
Furthermore, there is the very piano-centered piece "Road to Freedom" or "Decision", which build on melancholic violin and piano sounds. All these tracks have something in common, namely that they can really move you, and that they are so sad at times, that your heart will become heavy.
"New Beginnings" is also very interesting, as there is some very nice Flamenco-like guitar play towards the end, which underlines the portuguese background of the film/soundtrack, once again. After all the portuguese cultur did have a strong influence on Macau, as everyone knows, and therefore on the film, too.

"Search" also deserves to be mentioned, as it is one of the very rare titles, in which there is some singing involved, even though the female voice doesn't actually sing any real words.
I have to admit that I didn't know what to make of "O Gente Da Minha Terra" by fado-singer Mariza at first. But with time the song plays itself right into your heart and eventually becomes one of the soundtrack's true highlights. The lamenting singing and the great melancholic guitar play just fit perfectly into the score. It's almost as if Peter Kam used this song as a guide when composing the OST to "Isabella". A song that can give you goose-bumps. Sad, dreamy and simply wonderful!
At the end of the CD there is a 80's song of Anita Mui, which was also used in the movie. Well, I surely don't want to say a bad word about the now immortal Anita Mui, but the song still isn't my cup of tea, even the more as it doesn't fit into the rest of the OST, when it comes to the mood. In fact, this is the only real flaw to be found on the CD, but as this is just a bonus track, it won't have any negative impact on the overall rating.
There is nothing more to say. Peter Kam created a wonderfully melancholic OST for "Isabella", which captures the portuguese coloration of the film very well with many acoustic guitar pieces. A masterpiece among movie compositions!

Copyright © 2007 AsianMovieWeb

Track listing

01. Echoes
02. Ripples
03. She Stalks
04. Dialogue I
05. Voice of the Past
06. Morose
07. Exploration
08. Dialogue II
      对话 Ⅱ
09. Isabella I
10. News
11. Search
12. Road
13. Dialogue III
14. Corpse
15. Ritual I
16. Ritual II
17. Beyond
18. Isabella II
19. Abandoned
20. Sleepinq Beauty
21. Dialogue IV
22. Memories
23. I'll Go With You
24. Isabella III
25. Dialogue V
26. Goodbye
27. New Beginnings
28. To The Heavens
29. Dialogue VI
30. Decision
31. Reborn
32. Road to Freedom
33. O Gente Da Minha
      Terra (Performed by
34. A Story in Macau
35. Bonus track:
      (Performed by
      Anita Mui) Running Time = 52:06

Buy this Soundtrack at Yesasia: