THE FLOWERS OF WAR - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (2011)

Chinese director Zhang Yimou has made small, affecting and intimate films like Not One Less (1999), Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles (2005) and Under the Hawthorn Tree (2010). However, the film maverick is better known in the West for epic movies like Hero (2002), House of Flying Daggers (2004) and Curse of the Golden Flower (2006). Where music scores are concerned, we would imagine the two varying types of productions having very different moods.

In his latest project, Zhang has gotten Qigang Chen (in where we reside, he’d probably be known as Chen Qigang), the composer and musical director for the 2008 Beijing Olympics to come up with a sweeping epic score which the blockbuster deserves. While we haven’t seen the movie starring Christian Bale as a mortician who protects a group of convent girls and prostitutes during the Sino Japanese war, we can imagine the music on this album perfectly complementing the visuals on screen.

The 51 minute album blends Eastern and Western elements together (probably due to the storyline) and showcases soaring vocal performances in several of its 26 tracks. Quietly opening the listening experience is “Love Theme I (Opening Credit)”, an almost solemn theme showcasing Grammy Award winning Joshua Bell’s violin performance. The soft vocals make the cue somewhat ethereal. A Chinese soprano performs “QIn Huai Legend I (Falling in Love)”, a composition arranged by Chen based on the Chinese tune “Wu Xi Jing”. The Eastern flavour is strong here, and helps to add a sense of romanticism to the soundtrack.

Bell’s performance is heard again in “Redemption II (Tragedy in the Church)”, and with accompaniment from a full orchestra, one can imagine the sweeping epic scenes of the movie. The western violin is harmonised with Chinese instruments erhu and pipa, creating an apt atmosphere for the film. This can be heard in tracks like “Qin Huai Legend V (Parting Exhortation)” and “Qin Huai Legend II (Bloodstained Strings)”.

“Redemption V (Tragedy in the Church)” is an emotionally stirring cue, while “Comfort and Hope I (Tragedy in the Church)” is hopeful and serene. “Ruins” evoke images of destruction, while “Love Theme III (Descent from Heaven)” portrays a forgiving spirit.

Although there are no particularly memorable themes which stick in your head like a radio friendly song, the album is still highly recommended for its delicately lovely instrumental arrangements. This is the perfect soundtrack to play on a peaceful and quiet weekend afternoon, as you allow the tranquil music to soothe your senses.


Recommended Track: (8) Redemption V (Tragedy in the Church)

Review by John Li