Donnie Darko, while hardly a huge success on its theatrical release, has become one of the biggest cult sensations of recent times. One reason for its success was due in no small way to the film’s soundtrack, with its mix of classic 80s songs and atmospheric instrumentals.
With the recent Christmas number one of Mad World, featured prominently in the film’s closing scenes, it was inevitable that there would be renewed interest in the soundtrack. A word of warning however – don’t buy this if you’re expecting a collection of Echo And The Bunnymen, Tears For Fears and Duran Duran classics.
Instead, this is the instrumental score, written and performed by Michael Andrews. The only conventional song here is Mad World, included twice right at the end of the album. The alternative version is a beefed-up rendition with a drumbeat accompanying Gary Jules‘ haunting vocals. Sadly, it comes straight after the official song – maybe it would have made more sense to bookend the album with these two versions.
Otherwise, the rest of the album is taken up with Andrews’ haunting instrumentals. Keyboard chords rumble ominously and Andrews’ piano is featured prominently. There’s not much variety here (indeed some pieces sound almost identical to each other) but it’s perfect background music. In a way, it’s similar to Yann Tiersen‘s score for Amelie, only not quite as good.
Tracks such as Carpathian Ridge, The Artifact & Living and Liquid Spear Waltz all give a pretty good idea of what to expect. All are short, light pieces with Andrews’ beautiful piano playing lending a nicely ambient vibe. Burn It To The Ground lends a darker tone, with some dark chords undermining the relaxed mood. Gretchen Ross, meanwhile, shows the score’s lighter side, perfectly illustrating the redemptive power of love.
Any Donnie Darko obsessives will want to buy this soundtrack as a souvenir of a great film, and it will also appeal to anybody who likes to dabble in classical music and needs something soothing to relax to in the bath. Anybody who hasn’t seen the film though may wonder what the point of this is – without the visuals, half the power of the score is lost on the uninitiated.