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DTS presents
BT: Music From and Inspired By the Film Monster (2003)

"This score was conceived from the ground up in 5.1, and one of the most exciting things, actually about recording some of the original template sessions, was finding placements for the loops in a surround space to create this really immersive environment."
- BT

Review By: Brian Calhoun  
Published: March 08, 2004

Stars: BT
Other Stars: Michael DiMattia, Richard Fortus, Winston Roye, Sterling Campbell, Brain, Patty Jenkins
Director: N/A

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language in the special features)
Run Time: 02h:00m:04s
Release Date: March 09, 2004
Genre: music


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- A-A+A- B+

DVD Review

When people think of the film Monster, they most often discuss Charlize Theron's remarkable transformation in her portrayal of serial killer Aileen Wuornos. Typically, I find that most film discussions tend to focus on the acting, writing, or directing. However, a motion picture's musical score is infrequently mentioned, even in professional film reviews, which I find baffling. I believe music is undoubtedly the unsung hero of motion pictures. Try to imagine the fellowship's affecting journey through Middle Earth without Howard Shore's engaging score. How emotional would Andy Dufresne's uplifting self-liberation from Shawshank prison be without Thomas Newman's masterfully executed music cues? I could go on for days with these examples.

It has been said that a good music score is invisible, tapping into the viewer's subconscious without drawing attention to its presence. While somewhat profound, I do not entirely agree with that statement. Coming from a musical background, I always take keen notice of the way in which a music score affects the mood of a film. I find that an exceptional score noticeably heightens my involvement in the narrative, while all too often a tawdry music score will destroy the emotional impact of a film.

For Monster, writer/director Patty Jenkins worked closely with eclectic composer BT to create an effectively haunting visceral score. BT made the decision to conceptualize and record the score in 5.1 surround, utilizing the format to engulf the audience with the brooding tones that he created to complement the dark subject matter of the film. Unique musical methods were used to convey the warped psyche of Aileen Wuornos. Particularly noteworthy is the inclusion of a 15th-century instrument called the Ville á Roue, also known as the hurdy-gurdy. This sonically exotic instrument, along with creative uses of piano, guitars, strings, and electronics programming, offered a purely distinct style to the mood of the score.

I initially thought that listening to two hours worth of this music would quickly become monotonous, but I found it repeatedly enjoyable to hear the subtle layering and textures that BT builds upon one simple theme. Nevertheless, the soundtrack does prove to be a bit much to absorb in one sitting. Specifically, several of the more eerie portions that contain grating, high-pitched noises quickly prove fatiguing. Otherwise, BT took me on a compelling journey through the emotional highs and lows of Jenkins' film. Even without the visual counterpart, I could easily discern what kind of mood or emotion was being conveyed in the film just from listening to the music. I have not yet seen Monster, but after hearing BT's mesmerizing score, it is now high on my must see list.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Rationo
Anamorphicno
Image Transfer Grade: A+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DTSEnglishyes
PCMEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Created specifically for the 5.1 format, the DTS soundtrack is quite enveloping. Instruments emanate from all directions, creating a wholly engaging sound field. The pulsating bass notes are deep and powerful, yet rarely overbearing; I reveled in the subsonic tones on track six, The Bus Stop. However, the low end does have a tendency to sound a bit boomy and bloated on occasion, which slightly detracts from the impact of the other instruments. Other than this minor gripe, the sound is exceptionally clear with a wonderfully balanced frequency spectrum. I can only hope the score will sound this extraordinary on the eventual DVD release of Monster.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Music/Song Access with 24 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
Production Notes
Isolated Music Score with remote access
1 Documentaries
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: Super Jewel Box
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Photo Gallery
  2. Film Mixing Demo
  3. Bonus CD
  4. Re-mix Challenge
Extras Review: In addition to the DVD is an audio CD containing an abridged version of BT's soundtrack. Though this two-channel mix is not the preferred listening experience, its inclusion is quite admirable, as it provides the listener a chance to enjoy BT's score in multiple environments.

The first DVD special feature is a text introduction, which is the same set of production notes found in the case insert. The introduction offers a revealing account of BT's preparation for the score, including the various instruments he used as well as the inspiration in creating the themes.

Next, is a 15-minute interview with BT and Patty Jenkins, who candidly discuss their team effort to create the music. The filmmakers provide a worthwhile analysis of the score and how its themes tied into the film. My only complaint is the inclusion of several major plot spoilers. As with all the remaining extras, this feature is presented in anamorphic widescreen with the option of DTS 5.1 or PCM stereo sound.

Also included is the theatrical trailer for Monster, which proves to be an effective and chilling piece of editing.

The most enjoyable extra is the Film Mixing Demo. This section offers the viewer a chance to listen to various audio groups, called stems, from the film. Three stems are offered: "Dialogue", "Effects", and "Music". The viewer can isolate any one stem, or choose from a combination of the three and discover how crucial each stem is to the final mix. I first listened to the full mix, then the music alone, then the dialogue and effects without music. This provided a perfect example of how pivotal music is to the overall impact of a motion picture. I only wish every DVD would offer a feature as revealing as this.

Next, is a photo gallery of behind-the-scenes images from the film. While nothing spectacular, the images are nice and large, encompassing the entire screen.

A brief but telling bio for composer BT is offered, which discloses his background in film composing as well as his unique approach to the Monster soundtrack.

The final special feature is titled Re-mix. This section tells of an online challenge to re-mix BT's key score cue's for one of the main themes in Monster. More information on this challenge can be found by inserting the DVD into a DVD-Rom drive, or by accessing a special website.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

BT: Music From and Inspired By the Film Monster demonstrates the proper way to release a film soundtrack—in its original 5.1 theatrical format. However, knowing that not all music fans have 5.1 capabilities, DTS has gone above and beyond by also offering a second disc containing a 2-channel PCM mix, compatible with all standard CD players. I surely hope this commendable practice will soon become the norm for all film soundtrack releases.

 


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