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Once Upon A Time In America OST

January 16th, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments

When asked to choose my all-time favourite movie, I usually give three, representing different styles and decades. Casablanca, Singin’ In The Rain, and Once Upon A Time In America. The latter, Sergio Leone”s 1984 epic of crime, friendship and betrayal, should not really appeal to me. It is very long, at almost four hours. I tend to dislike movies that exceed the two hour mark by much. It is violent and full of organised crime. I don’t like violence and organised crime very much (though I do love GoodFellas). And yet, when I first saw the film, in a cinema in Cologne in late 1984, I came out and immediately bought a ticket for the next show. The film touches me at an unexplored level, I think, and much of that has to do with Ennio Morricone’s delicate, haunting soundtrack.

Once Upon A Time In America is a film about nostalgia and loss, of melancholy brought on by missed opportunity, betrayal, and loss of love. The score captures that melancholy, interspersed with the jauntiness of good times. As Noodles (Robert de Niro) encounters the bitter-sweet memories, he tries to resist the impulse to be haunted by them. If he were to hear the panpipes of the score, he’d join the viewer in experiencing just that emotion.

Rarely is a score as much a character in its film as is Morricone”s greatest masterpiece. Violent a film as Once Upon A Time In America is, the music is is at once powerful and tender. “Deborah’s Theme”, the hymn to unfulfilled love, evokes a yearning and sadness which may move to tears even the listener who has not seen the film. When the soundtrack livens up to record a light mood, these moments are brief and quickly followed by more of the sad sounds “” achingly beautiful, to dabble in cliché “” of loss and nostalgia.


  1. Fusion 45
    January 17th, 2008 at 03:25 | #1

    I’ve never seen this movie but my wife loves gangster movies (and I love soundtracks) so it will immediately to the top of our Netflix cue. We recently watched “The Godfather” again, which is also a work of musical genius. It’s not the theme that’s captivating (everyone knows it and, frankly, there are too many allusions to it for my tastes). It’s the other thematic music that entertains me: there’s a spooky sense of humor running through the whole 3 hours.

  2. caliman (pj4u)
    January 22nd, 2008 at 07:50 | #2

    Great OST and movie, yes.. That’s Gheorghe Zamfir of Romania on the pan flute. This music led me to discover some great folk music from Romania, Bulgaria and that area, a far cry of what I thought i liked.

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