Philip Glass and The Hours (2002)

He’s prolific and complicated, an influential American composer, a genius whose distinctive style of creating melodic patterns of diatonic harmonies transfers from the operatic to symphonic, from concertos to film scores. Critics over the decades have disliked his repetitive sequences of notes or his assaulting experimentation. He cares not, for his art is an expression that cannot be harnessed or altered to suit the fancies of others. Here is an informative article about Glass by Tom Service from The Guardian, “A Music Guide to Philip Glass” . 

Personally, I like his piano etudes, his Violin Concerto no. 1, his String Quartet no. 3 “Mishima” and most of all, his film scores. Another interesting way of exploring Philip Glass is by watching the 2007 documentary by Scott Hicks, Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts.

The Hours

Michael Cunningham’s Pulitzer winner is an excellent book, but this is a rare instance where the film version is equal, if not surpasses, the reading experience. This is due to the acting, the editing, and the score. The film blends the lives of three women separated by time but united with problems of depression, alienation, suffocation, and the hardest part of life–getting through the hours when each one feels like a drop of water on the forehead. With a superb cast and subtle, sensitive performances by everyone:  Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, Nicole Kidman, Ed Harris, Toni Collette, Claire Danes, Jeff Daniels, Stephen Dillane, Allison Janney, John C. Reilly, and Miranda Richardson, the score functions as a sad waltz corresponding to the plight of three women who seek freedom from their pain. Suicide is a major theme. Death a constant companion. While these are heavy topics, the script adapted by David Hare, connects the three women in a single day, echoing insights given in Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. One way this is accomplished is through the editing. Each woman performs the same daily task. The lost look in the morning, the reflection at the mirror as if to say, “Must we be together, again?” Or, the arrangement of flowers throughout the home does not comfort or bring cheer.

Nicole Kidman never looked or acted better in this Oscar-winning performance as Virginia Woolf. Julianne Moore played the 50s suburbanite wife who can’t bake a cake and whose needy son somehow senses her life is a fraud. Meryl Streep’s Clarissa needs to take care of her dying friend to feel alive while the dying friend experiences the mother he never had. The warped co-dependent relationship is executed with Ed Harris with painful results. This is a beautiful, symmetrical, and satisfying film.

Other Philip Glass scores I love:

The Truman Show (1998)

Martin Scorsese’s Kundun (1997) “Potala”

Notes on a Scandal (2006) 

The Illusionist (2006)

The Fog of War 

What about you? What are your favorite Philip Glass contributions? 

51 thoughts on “Philip Glass and The Hours (2002)

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  1. As I can’t comment on Philip Glass’ work since I’m not familiar with him at all, I have to say that The Hours’ tremendous cast alone is enough to entice me. Thanks for putting this on notice for me Cindy.


  2. Great composer. 🙂 I don’t know why film scores don’t get more attention. A lot of people tell me they don’t notice the music in a movie. The music is SO important! I’m a huge fan of Thomas Newman. Great post! 🙂


    1. Thank you! Yes, I love film scores, too. How many times has a mediocre film been lifted because of a score? A good film turned into great? Thomas Newman is awesome! I love the score to Road to Perdition, American Beauty, Shawshenk…..

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I was thinking about doing a post on Max Richter scores, but you are persuading me maybe I should feature Thomas Newman instead. Or better yet, YOU should since you know more about his work than I 😉

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Lol. Yeah… I’ve been meaning to do a big Thomas Newman post for ages! I’ll probably do a top ten soon. Love his work so much. Sad news about James Horner today… 😦


  3. It is a tour-de-force of a film, and the music is eminently suited to the scenes and story. Kidman is on top form, and almost unrecognisable; though every performance is noteworthy, she certainly stands out.
    (It seems to be working again Cindy…)
    Best wishes, Pete.


    1. Apparently my name servers weren’t pointing in the right direction. Anyway, I’m glad you like the film, as well. I loved Nicole’s performance. It still is. Thank you for commenting, Pete!


    1. Hi Vinnieh, thanks for saying so. Yeah, a revisit surprised me how well it’s holding up. I love Moore’s performance so much and JCReilly is perfect as the husband who is clueless about his wife. He can’t see how miserable she is. That wake-up kiss for her and the shock of it all. I loved it. Reminded me of a similar time she played a confused 50s housewife in ‘Far From Heaven’ from the same year, 2002.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. To me, The Hours isn’t a movie, it’s a symphony. Swelling and rising, tying different themes, troubles and epochs together. Of course, none of this would’ve worked without Phillip Glass’ excellent score, which soars and lights up this wonderful film, taking it to heights I hardly dared hope for when I started to watch it.


      1. for some reason, i have neither been receiving notice of your posts and yesterday could not access your site. so i re-subscribed, which is why i just got all three recent posts at once.


  5. Ooooh, you are a lady after my own heart Cindy. I LOVE Philip Glass’ style, I’ve actually featured The Illusionist one on my music break post a while ago ( I haven’t seen The Hours but I have listened to the score several times and I absolutely loved it!


  6. A true genius. I don’t care if someone calls his music “repetitive” – all composers have their own style and means. His music is the closest thing to the “music of the spheres ” concept to me. Thank you for sharing!


  7. As a musician who has written film score, all I can say about Glass is that his music leaves me breathless. I adore his work. And the films where his music is present are hugely enhanced from his gifts.
    Currently, my son is doing an 8-week summer internship in LA at Remote Control Productions (this is Hans Zimmer’s studio). He’s a lucky son of a gun, and every day I eagerly await to hear about what he’s learning.
    Thank you for highlighting all these fabulous films, and the man behind the music, Cindy!


    1. Hi Shelley! Oh, my, I’m jealous and thrilled for your son. How sweet is that. What music does he play? Is that his major? Do you approve of the Shenandoah Conservatory in Winchester? Always fun to hear of your talents, Thanks for commenting.


      1. He trained in classical guitar and then expanded into a million other genres, but his love is sound engineering and music composition. He’s got another year to go in high school and as lovely as the SCW is it wouldn’t even be considered because “it’s too close to home, mom.” He wants to be out in L.A. I agreed to an 8 week internship for the summer.
        He’s having a blast thus far.


  8. Great post! I’m not as familiar with Glass’s music as others like Zimmer or John Wiliams, but I especially enjoy his work for The Hours and The Truman Show.


    1. Hi S.G. Truman Show, The Illusionist work so well for me. They add so much depth to the text. I can’t get enough of him. Sure, though, with Williams and Zimmer. Two great ones! Thank you so much for commenting 🙂


  9. Great review, Cindy. I love Philip Glass. I’m so glad you mentioned Kundun. It’s my favourite. One of the rare times, I liked score more than movie. Droning ominous sounds and flighty light notes combine, infusing the movie with incredible energy.

    I’d love to see you highlight your favorite scores or composers (if you haven’t already).


    1. Hi Dan! So glad you/we are Philip Glass fans! I recently wrote a review for under-the-radar Rachel Portman. She’s a great film composer. Maybe when you have time you would like to check it out? I’m huge advocate for the score. How many times has a bad film made better and mediocre film memorable because of the score???

      Anyway, I appreciate your comments! Thank you, Dan.


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