TESTAMENT (1983) - James Horner - The "Bittersweet Memories" Suite
The 1983 film Testament was originally produced as a television project for PBS's "American Playhouse," but the quality of the film was considered so high that Paramount decided to purchase the rights for a full theatrical release. Its production qualities are still those of a made-for-TV film, with minimal special effects, stunning acting, and a reliance on a strong adaptation of Carol Amen's short story, "The Last Testament." The story resembles many that prevailed in Ronald Reagan's nuclear-ambitious early-80's, with the concurrently seen telefilm The Last Day better remembered for its treatment of everyday America after a nuclear war. The stark reality of Lynne Littman's film is a disturbing experience to say the least, with the primary suburban family in its story slowly dying off as radiation spreads and the skies grow dark. It is understandable that James Horner's score for the film is equally depressing. Built for a small ensemble and usually consisting of solo trumpet or woodwind performances, the score is extremely respectful while mourning a lifestyle lost. Two standout tracks include the cue for the bike ride between father and son before the war, with Horner providing one of his more enjoyable family theme variations for horn, synthesizer, harp, piano, and strings (an interesting precursor to his children's work a decade later). A recollection variation on Horner's consistently utilized title theme is performed by haunting choir in the late moments of the score. On the whole, the solo performances define Testament; the respect that Horner shows with the melodic simplicity of his work is shown in the fact that he mirrors the hopeless optimism of the primary character (the family mother) with slowly deteriorating statements of the title theme in a consistently major key form. The sound quality for the score is outstanding given its age, and is reproduced well in the film despite existing in a monaural soundscape.