MARTÍN AL AMANECER – Agustín Barbabosa

Original Review by Alan Rogers

A Mexican film, Martín al Amanecer (Martin At Dawn) tells the story of Martin, a man who seems to have reached a crossroads in life. He’s a quiet man who keeps himself pretty much to himself. When his car breaks down on an isolated road he comes across a brothel where he meets the beautiful Lupe. Martin wants to protect Lupe, buy her out of her situation and that’s when his problems begin in earnest. Mexican composer/producer Agustín Barbabosa’s score reflects the languid tempo of the film and has composed music that features a series of slow-paced cues featuring what sounds like a small ensemble of musicians (strings, piano and guitars) that, on balance, does not really offer much to excite. Rather it offers interesting ideas that must add significantly to the film.

“Línea (- – – – – -)”, although a short track, is a dramatic start to the score. Sustained, slow-bowed low strings build to a searing crescendo and evokes a sense of something emerging from a blistering desert haze. The sustained low strings carrie themselves over into the second cue, “Un Árbol”, establishing a slow lethargic motif that recurs several times in similarly titled “Ese Árbol” and “Mi Árbol”. A tree (“árbol” is Spanish for tree) seems to play some kind of role in the film (a role which is a mystery without having seen the film) and listening to these tracks, trying to hear how these cues change as the score progresses is a bit of a dead end since the properties of these tracks does not really change. “Ida” and “Huida” break the feel of the score that has been established by the already-mentioned tracks with the appearance of guitars (acoustic and bass electric), which introduces brief, thematic material that gives another (and welcomed) dimension to the music. But even here, any true warmth is tempered by a monotonous and world-weary piano line. Finally, the 4-minute “Ruleta” surprises with its amalgam of various percussive sounds, the now-familiar wailings of sustained low strings and a number of dissonant woodwind segments. Electronic soundscapes and what appears to be guttural throat singing give the track added interest. The tone of the score ends as it began with the aforementioned “Mi Árbol”. 

In interview, director Carrasco’s vision of the film’s success was not in terms of numbers through the door. Rather, he saw success in terms of it being seen as a so-called “art-house” film. Barbabosa’s score has a quality that does enhance that sense, focusing more on moods and feelings rather following the drama. Apparently there is very little dialogue in the film, so the composer’s music is given centre stage to do its job. Does it work as a listening experience? I would say that it’s interesting rather than enjoyable and the various ways in which Barbabosa uses his palette of instruments does keep the attention over the 20 minutes running time. I’d give Martín al Amanecer a qualified recommendation because of its interesting ideas. The score is available from the iTunes store and I suggest that if you do find yourself moving to this score then listen to any available clips carefully.

Audio samples can be found HERE.

Rating: **½

  1. Línea (- – – – – -) (0:58)
  2. Un Árbol (1:16)
  3. Ida (3:54)
  4. Obsequio (2:27)
  5. Ese Árbol (1:24)
  6. Huida (4:35)
  7. Ruleta (Intro) (1:37)
  8. Ruleta (4:15)
  9. Mi Árbol (1:17)

Running Time: 21:47

Charrodiscos (2011)


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