Kusa no Ran: Rebellion of the Grass
Soundtrack by Deep Forest
Deep Forest make a return to film scoring for 'Kusa no Ran' (Rebellion of the Grass), a historical account of the 1884 revolt in the Chichibu region of Japan. The soundtrack was released August 21st, in Japan only, followed by the first public screenings of the movie, September 4th.
It's the group's second full-length soundtrack, following 'Prince du Pacifique'. Deep Forest have also composed a number of original songs for movies like 'Strange Days', 'Pret-A-Porter' and most recently they composed three thematical pieces for the French-Polynesian project, 'Napua, the Man's Earth Princess' (2005).
But even though Deep Forest has produced music for movies before, there are several suprises on the new score of Kusa no Ran. One of the big ones being that there are 23 tracks, two composed by Michel Sanchez and all the rest by Eric Mouquet! It's sort of a departure from the team effort that fans are used to seeing from the musical duo, at least under the name Deep Forest.
The album is very instrumental, with the piano being the instrument of choice, found in over half of the songs. The only song with vocals is the theme ballad, Eternal Dream. The beautiful melody of Eternal Dream, which can also be heard on the opening track Haruko Haru Chichibu, includes the soft Japanese vocals of Lyrico. This song more than any of the others, is reminiscent of Mouquet's pop projects with Ana Torroja and Chitose Hajime.
The remainder of the soundtrack is very different, there are small elements of classical, pop, and new age music. The ethnic presence that Deep Forest followers have come to expect is not nearly as salient as in past albums. What Indigenous influences are there can be heard in the bass, and many times dark, tribal percussion on tracks like Kusa no Koe, the faster tempoed Kusa no Koe II and Konran.
Eric Mouquet did a good job creating many simple, yet elegant pieces for the film, and even though it's officially a Deep Forest production, the music is very much Mouquet's. In some instances the music brings to mind Mouquet's Thorgal soundtrack, when hearing the drumming and uncanny voice layers of the title track Kusa no Ran.
Although Michel Sanchez composed just two of the songs, his short ditty, Ketui, stands out as perhaps the most heart-felt. Ketui, is a slow, somber, piano and violin duet. Most striking is the beautiful violin (regrettably there is no information on the violinist), similar in style to the violin playing you might hear on one of those American civil war programs, during a narration of a letter home. The chorus is equally stunning with a strange but elevating orchestra of synthetic arrangements, like something off of Hieroglyphes.
A majority of the songs are interludes, one to two minutes on average, with the sense that each song was created for a specific scene rather than to be listened to alone. In contrast with Pacifique, where the songs were developed beyond the movie to the point that one might not have even realized it was a soundtrack, the Kusa no Ran soundtrack is much more dependent on the imagery of the film. But even not having seen Kusa no Ran, one can easily tell by the music's grim tone, that it deals with a much more serious story than 'Prince du le Pacifique'.
The Kusa no Ran score is undoubtedly a great soundtrack, supported by the positive reviews the film has received so far. The soundtrack is less of a stand alone album than Pacifique, but Deep Forest fans are still going to want to hear it. Unfortunately the album is only available in Japan (HMV will ship to any country), and chances seem slim that it will be released elsewhere.
The story of Kusa no Ran begins in the early 1800's in a region two hours north-west of modern day central Tokyo, called Chichibu. The region's economy thrived on the export of raw silk to the Western world. But in 1882 there was a world depression, and the price of silk dropped. The peasants were no longer able to pay the high taxes imposed upon them by the government. Many went into debt and had their land, houses and household goods taken from them by the usury (loan sharks). The peasants pleaded to the courts for help, but nobody would listen. They would later find out that the courts and usury were working together.
Angered by the government's unwillingness to help, the peasants banded together to form the Freedom and People's Right Movement. On October 1st, 1884, more than 3,000 farmers armed with bamboo shutes, swords, and rifles gathered at the Muku shrine for the Rebellion of the Grass (commoners).
This film comes at an important time, not only because it is the 120th anniversary of this historic event, but also because of the paralleled frustration felt by the Japanese people today toward their government. Taxes in Japan are very high, many are in dept or don't have enough money to retire on. A sign of this frustration was expressed by the 8,000 extras who came from across Japan to make Kusa no Ran.