It's sort of a touchstone for me now. Becca and I had been dating for about six months when this movie came out, and it was really this movie that made me aware of how much Becca actually liked film music. That was a passion I didn't share with many people, mostly because people my age seemed to think it was weird to not be into pop music or rap or whatever was right there on the radio. Becca listened to this soundtrack over and over, and we grew closer over a shared love of film scores. That was sort of important to me; sometimes she's just not into something that I am, and I'm glad this is one thing that she shares with me.
This rang a bell in my memory: I wrote a post in appreciation of the Braveheart score myself, some time ago; turns out that it was more than ten years ago. Wow.
And yet...I still return to this CD, again and again, because of the first ten tracks (which comprise the music up to and including Wallace's victory at Stirling). In the film, Mel Gibson strove for a very dreamy atmosphere, in which gestures are slowed down, dialogue is spoken at a measured pace, and characters hold one another's eyes. The emotional core of the film comes early, in those scenes of quiet courtship between Wallace and Murron (Catherine McCormack), when love is expressed by a quick and private smile or a shared glance as they pass each other within a crowd. This is where Horner's score shines.
The two tracks to listen to here are "Wallace Courts Murron" and "The Secret Wedding", both of which are long and quiet, and yet, surprisingly complex. The only rhythm in these two tracks is provided by a harp that is so distantly placed one is at first not even certain if it is even there. The melody Horner creates for these two lovers is a very long one indeed, and he varies it slightly each time it is heard -- first in the violins, then in the wavering tones of the kena flute (played with thick vibrato) and finally, most memorably, in a long line for solo oboe that is as heartbreaking a passage of music as I have ever heard.
The first half of Horner's Braveheart score constitutes some of the finest film music I know, haunting and atmospheric and lyrical. The score's back half does let up somewhat, as does the film, but that first half is so strong that it carries what comes after.