Carter Burwell,
The Man Who Wasn't There
(Universal Classics, 2001)

Classical music enthusiasts admit that classical music is an "acquired taste." If this is, in fact, true, the soundtrack to The Man Who Wasn't There is a good, quality place to whet your appetite. A five-star place, in fact.

Featuring original compositions (classical, swing) by Burwell, outstanding arrangements of sonatas by Beethoven and a stellar selection from Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro," The Man Who Wasn't There is there, musically. The "already classically enlightened" will be glad to hear renditions of Beethoven's "Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor Op. 13," "Piano Sonata No. 25 in G major Op. 79," "Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor Op. 57 'Appassionata,'" "Piano Sonata No. 14 in C sharp minor Op. 27 'Moonlight,'" "Adagio Cantabile from Piano Sonata No. B in C minor Op. 13 'Pathetique,'" and "Andante Cantabile from Piano Trio No. 7 in B flat Op. 97 'Archduke.'" The "classical ignorant" will likely be surprisingly glad to be enlightened, as I was.

The Man Who Wasn't There is suspenseful, inspiring and pensive. Burwell's own compositions prove to be seamless transitions from sonata to sonata, together recounting heightened scenes from the movie. You will likely get a sense of the plot line by monitoring the emotional changes in each subsequent musical selection, without even seeing the movie. The film, created by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, stars Billy Bob Thornton and Frances McDormand in a tale of "passion, crime and punishment" set against a cinematic backdrop of black and white.

The man may be missing is the film, but there's nothing at all missing from this extraordinary movie soundtrack, except, perhaps bad and uninspiring music.

[ by Lynne Remick ]
Rambles: 19 April 2002

Buy it from