Reviews & Quotes

Elmer Bernstein & Far From Heaven

“And – luxury of luxuries, and proof that the film is playing it for real, emotionally speaking – there’s Elmer Bernstein‘s sleek, swooning music.”

Jonathan Romney, The Independent on Sunday, London

“…Sometimes the less you see the more you believe, and the Brief Encounter poignancy of the end – with Moore and Haysbert matching each other in sorrowful restraint as Elmer Bernstein‘s magnificent music swells over them – made me grateful that the director had left some space for our imaginations.”

Jenny McCartney, The Sunday Telegraph, London

“Far From Heaven doesn’t just echo Fifties cinema, it is soaked in it, from the Sirkesque “forbidden fruit” story structures and clipped, breathy dialogue, through Ed Lachman’s lush Technicolor visuals and Elmer Bernstein‘s soaring score.”

Barbara Ellen, The Times, London

Elmer Bernstein‘s score imitates the lush foliage with its extravagantly emotional strings, later arranged with much emphasis on brooding keyboard and woodwind, dotting and crossing the drama’s every ‘i’ and ‘t’.”

Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian, London

“You needn’t be a 1950s freak, though it helps, to adore its lush autumnal visuals, its sumptuous music by veteran Elmer Bernstein and its perfectly tuned preciosity of tone and performance.”

Nigel Andrews, Financial Times, London

“I would argue that this film is a genuine masterpiece in the traditional sense of the word. It is the glorious product of a team of professionals working flawlessly at the top of their game.

“The music and cinematography deserve to be praised – so stand up and take a bow Edward Lachman and the great Elmer Bernstein, both of whom add immeasurably to the impact and power of this remarkable film.”

Jonathon Ross, Daily Mirror

The 15th annual Sammy Awards for 2002
Best Original Film Score
“What a pleasure to hear such a glorious score by one of the grand film music masters! FAR FROM HEAVEN comes from a composer who has been turning out well crafted scores for over 50 years. In a year when there were many exceptional film scores, Elmer Bernstein‘s score stands at the very top of them all. One of the simplest yet most touching scores from recent years. A masterpiece of film scoring.”

Roger Hall, Film Music Review

“Ex-underground filmmaker Haynes’s fascination with the kitschy witchcraft of times and trends (Poison, Safe, Velvet Goldmine) finds consummation in this wonderful, translucent movie. You needn’t be a 1950s freak, though it helps, to adore its lush autumnal visuals, its sumptuous music by veteran Elmer Bernstein and its perfectly tuned preciosity of tone and performance.”

Nigel Andrews, Financial Times, London

“But Haynes doesn’t preach and he doesn’t mock the past. He takes Sirk’s style of heightened colour, romantic music and slightly larger-than-life acting to recreate the Fifties with affection and understanding. The movie begins with a crane shot, sweeping down from the autumnal trees to close in on Cathy and her happy family as Elmer Bernstein‘s lush score with its soaring strings and plangent piano plays on the soundtrack. The fin-tailed cars look as if they’ve emerged from advertisements in the Saturday Evening Post .”

Philip French, The Observer, London

“What’s wrong with weeping? ‘Far from Heaven,’ Todd Haynes’s version of Sirk’s ‘All That Heaven Allows,’ wants more than any film since ‘Titanic’ to make us stop sniggering, chuck away any ironic sensibilities we may be harbouring, and to cry like burst dams. Brilliantly acted and directed, it’s a banquet of colour, expressionistic lighting and – courtesy of Elmer Bernstein, the genius responsible for the soundtracks to ‘The Magnificent Seven’ and ‘The Man With the Golden Arm’ – celestially sad and beautiful music.”

Sukhdev Sandhu, Daily Telegraph, London

“Everything about ‘Far from Heaven’ playfully yet reverently alludes to the 1950s as a movie genre. The rich and digitally enhanced autumn leaves feature as tableaux, and as a discreet and tasteful design for the opening and closing credits. Elmer Bernstein‘s score imitates the lush foliage with its extravagantly emotional strings, later arranged with much emphasis on brooding keyboard and woodwind, dotting and crossing the drama’s every ‘i’ and ‘t’.”

The Guardian

“‘Far From Heaven’ doesn’t just echo Fifties cinema, it is soaked in it, from the Sirk-esque ‘forbidden fruit’ story structures and clipped, breathy dialogue, through to Ed Lachman’s lush Technicolor visuals and Elmer Bernstein‘s soaring score.”

London Times

“Nothing made me happier this year than the acclaim Elmer Bernstein‘s ‘Far From Heaven’ score got. The score and the attention it received prove that music can still underscore a movie emotionally and move audiences with genuine melody. The fact that Bernstein, a composer who started working in Hollywood around the time ‘Far From Heaven’ is set, was able to write the perfect music for this film while retaining his essential style, shows not that his music is dated, but that it is timeless. If there is any justice at all, Elmer can cap an incredible career with an Academy Award for this score.”

Jeff Bond, Film Score Monthly

“All of them, along with Haynes, seem certain to be remembered when Oscar nominations are announced, while cinematographer Edward Lachman and composer Elmer Bernstein, whose score could turn on a city’s waterworks, should reserve their tuxedos now.”

Terry Lawson, Detroit Free Press

“Thirteen-time nominee Elmer Bernstein, 80, provides one of his all-time great scores, both an airy homage to the melodies of soundtracks past and a gracefully melancholy partner to Haynes’ story.”

Robert Abele, Variety.com

“…All of the wild, unruly feeling that the characters must repress pops to life around them, in every detail of Mark Friedberg’s production design, Edward Lachman’s painterly cinematography, Sandy Powell’s delectable costumes and, above all, the great Elmer Bernstein‘s sobbing, swooping score.
“Mr. Bernstein’s music, which plays beneath nearly every scene, puts the melody in this melodrama, and Mr. Haynes, fading breathlessly from one scene to the next, reaches moments of operatic intensity that seem disproportionate to his tale of genteel bigotry and marital dysfunction.”

A.O. Scott, The New York Times

“Now in his 80th year, Elmer Bernstein has been a highly regarded composer ever since the 1950s. Now he has returned to his roots with this ravishing soundtrack to the film which stars Julianne Moore, Dennis Quaid, and Dennis Haysbert.”

Roger Hall, Film Music Review

“The film oozes craft. If there’s any justice in Hollywood (and, unfortunately, there usually isn’t), ‘Far From Heaven’ should sweep this year’s Oscars come March 23, with statuettes going to Haynes (for both his direction and his script) and the film itself, along with Moore (best actress), Quaid (best actor), Clarkson (supporting actress), Haysbert (supporting actor), Edward Lachman (cinematography), James Lyons (editing), Mark Friedberg (production design), Sandy Powell (costumes) and the great Elmer Bernstein, who has written the quintessential Elmer Bernstein score for this utterly flawless movie—again, the year’s best.”

Joe Baltake, The Sacramento Bee

“Special attention, though, must be reserved for two artists whose work makes ‘Far From Heaven’ truly special: cinematographer Edward Lachman and composer Elmer Bernstein. Lachman achieves a breathtakingly saturated look of bold colors and striking shadows. Bernstein, who was active during the ’50s but primarily in urban dramas and not weepies, is given leave by Haynes to fill the score with the emotions that the characters are neither permitted nor equipped to declare. The music is so overwhelming that, although it isn’t the case, you feel that every minute of the film takes place against a background of rich orchestration.”

Shawn Levy, The Oregonian

“Without Elmer Bernstein, scores of movies wouldn’t have sounded the same. But now, only Bernstein remains—the last of the giants, more towering, and certainly more valuable, than ever. His score for Haynes’ Far from Heaven, a wry but moving homage to the Douglas Sirk melodramas of the 1950s, ranks among his finest scores.”

Robert Wilonsky, Dallas Observer

“Capped by the crowning glory of Elmer Bernstein‘s emotionally and orchestrally lush score, the film is a jewel-like operation on every technical level. Its visual sumptuousness seduces from the opening frame to the last
—bookended by gorgeous period-style credits—but never overwhelms the action.”

David Rooney, Variety

“But they’re also the joys of an almost flawlessly realized objet d’art: a movie where everything—the gorgeously symbolic production design, Ed Lachman’s glowing cinematography and the movingly evocative period score by that great, still-vital ’50s veteran Elmer Bernstein (“Some Came Running,” “To Kill a Mockingbird”)—work to waft us back to a recaptured past which now makes perfect sense of an imperfect world. It’s a near-perfect film, too, even if its loves and lies are written in the wind.”

Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

“With its lush Technicolor palette of autumn hues and lavish Elmer Bernstein score and slightly stylized acting and crisp costumes of crinoline and taffeta and gray flannel, Far from Heaven is a note-perfect pastiche of early studio melodramas, particularly of the 1950s, which was Haynes’ intention, to pay tribute to films like Imitation of Life and All That Heaven Allows.”

MaryAnn Johanson, FlickFilosopher.com

“‘Far From Heaven’ is an all-around treat, featuring a lush score by veteran Elmer Bernstein, luminous cinematography by Ed Lachman, a stunning production design by Mark Friedberg and gorgeous costumes by Sandy Powell—all of which belie the modest $13 million budget.”

Lou Lumenick, New York Post

“Besides the dialogue, every detail is perfect—from the legendary Elmer Bernstein‘s sweeping, string-heavy score, to Cathy’s baby-blue station wagon and her matching gloves and handbags, to the busybody neighbors, to the children who are rarely seen and heard even less.”

Christy Lemire, Associated Press

“In director Todd Haynes’ naked, hugely enjoyable homage to Douglas Sirk’s color-saturated, mid-’50s melodramas (complete with a swelling score by Elmer Bernstein), Julianne Moore plays a small-town housewife who thinks she has it all, only to find that she has nothing.”

Yahoomovies.com

“…But Haynes also has two invaluable collaborators (in addition to longtime producer Christine Vachon) in Elmer Bernstein and Edward Lachman. “Bernstein, the celebrated film composer (“To Kill a Mockingbird” among others), has created a score that not only recaptures 1957 sonically, its chordal progressions are themselves in thematic sync with Haynes’ storytelling; where you expect him to go minor, for instance, he stays major, as if to mirror Cathy’s unconquerable (almost) optimism, whether it involves her husband’s “illness” (“I know it’s a sickness,” Frank growls, “because it makes me feel despicable…”) or her ever-deepening friendship with the Poitier- inspired gardener Raymond Deagan (Dennis Haysbert), a relationship that provokes all of ’50s Hartford’s racist inclinations.”

John Anderson, Newsday

“Somewhere in heaven, the late Mr. Sirk and Rainer Werner Fassbinder
—that other subversive German melodramatist

must be applauding Haynes’s achievement. As for the score by the 80-year-old Elmer Bernstein (The Man With The Golden Arm, Sweet Smell Of Success, To Kill A Mockingbird)

, surely this is the sound of paradise.”

Goeff Pevere, Toronto Star

(Toronto Film Festival Review)

“In Far From Heaven, Ed Lachman
—in a glorious demonstration of all that cinematography can be
—floods the screen with color. The hyper-reality extends to the score, by eighty-year-old Elmer Bernstein, which sweeps the film up on waves of ravishing romance.”

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

“Prepare yourself for an unashamed beauty such as modern movies seldom yield to. Float on a swooning score by Elmer Bernstein, that essential movie composer of the 1950s. Be ready for a wide-screen composition of four women on a suburban lawn of Kelly green, and the gorgeous clash of their billowing skirts, in rose pink, vermilion, amber and scarlet. Or Scarlett?”

David Thomson, Los Angeles Times

(Feature)

“A supremely intelligent pastiche, Todd Haynes’s Far From Heaven revisits the high ’50s through the mirrored scenarios of Sirk’s Written on the Wind, Imitation of Life, and, mainly, All That Heaven Allows–not to mention the rhapsodic Rachmaninoid chords of the Elmer Bernstein score that dramatizes this emotional maelstrom.”

J. Hoberman, The Village Voice

“With its lush Elmer Bernstein score, gorgeous autumnal visuals by cinematographer Edward Lachman, visionary costumes by Sandy Powell, like Sirk’s glossy, expressionistic, tearjerkers, you find yourself laughing and incredibly moved at the same time.”

Dennis Dermody, Paper

“The lavish cinematography, the autumn leaves of Connecticut, the tracking shots of the white church steeples, the shiny powder-blue station wagons and two-toned Thunderbirds, the lush music by Elmer Bernstein
—it’s all been magically reproduced.”

Rex Reed, The New York Observer

(Feature coverage at Toronto Film Festival)

“And the great veteran composer Elmer Bernstein contributes a score that could have come directly from the period
—all yearning, romantic piano passages and staccato breaks to underscore the melodrama.”

David Gritten, Daily Telegraph, UK

(From the Venice Film Festival)

Elmer Bernstein provides a brilliant score, which, with tinkly piano and heavy crescendos, purposefully and shamelessly exacerbates an emotional reaction from the audience
—as melodramas are meant to do.”

Howard Feinstein, IndieWire

“Add Oscar-worthy outfits by Sandy (Shakespeare in Love) Powell, startling cinematography by Edward (Desperately Seeking Susan) Lachman, A.S.C., plus Elmer Bernstein‘s career-crowning score, and this is the only end-of-the-year release that is guaranteed to have you running to the theatre over and over again.”

Brandon Judell, PlanetOut/Popcorn

“Although he makes conscious reference to a particular style of film-making, he has made a movie that is entirely his own, with rapturous camerawork from Ed Lachman, a wall-to-wall score by Elmer Bernstein, and deep, richly legible emotions that eddy and swirl across his actors’ faces.”

John Patterson, The Guardian

“The ultimate irony is that the centrifugal force behind every other life in the film is left with no life of her own. Even in lush Technicolor with an Elmer Bernstein score, all that noble sacrifice won’t keep you warm on a cold winter night.

“The crisp, magnificent cinematography by Edward Lachman and the dreamy, soaring music by Elmer Bernstein are Oscar-worthy throwbacks to the golden era of American filmmaking.”

Rex Reed, The New York Observer

“There will be those people who want to dismiss ‘Far From Heaven’ as a joke or a stunt: an exercise in surfaces, from the stunningly lush cinematography of Ed Lachman to the rich score by old-master Elmer Bernstein to the costumes, art direction and costume design. But that misses a key point.

“‘Far From Heaven’ is stunning and haunting, witty and bittersweet. It is an exercise in style that gives equal weight to substance.”

Marshall Fine, The Journal News

“For all its formalist ambitions, you can lose yourself in the swoony sadness of the mother’s story, experience the deliciously weepy rush of the victim, and salivate over the film’s luscious look—from the production design, with its wildly operatic reds and oranges, to the lavish, satiny dresses nipped at the waist and billowing out into great hoops (check out the fabulous Patricia Clarkson’s monumental French twist), to Elmer Bernstein‘s swelling, plaintive score, to Moore declaiming her lines in letter-perfect mimicry of the breathy Brahmin cadences affected by the diva actresses of the period.”

Ella Taylor, LA Weekly

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