Soundtrack Review: The Two Popes (2019)

Late last year, Milan Records released the soundtrack for the Netflix original film The Two Popes. Accompanying brilliant direction by Fernando Meirelles and indomitable performances by both Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce is an entirely charming, playful, and yet robust score devised by multifaceted artist and composer Bryce Dessner whose music soulfully uncovers the individual voices for both Pope Benedict and Cardinal Bergoglio (the future Pope Francis) while still revealing each Pope’s humane vulnerabilities and finding common consonance between them in an oftentimes lonesome Vatican locale.


With an expansive body of work that extends beyond the hugely-successful band, Dessner brings his experience as both a GRAMMY Award-winning classical composer and Golden Globe-nominated film composer to the The Two Popes. Regarding his work on The Two Popes, Dessner had this to say:

“It was an absolute joy to work with such an incredible cast and team on The Two Popes. In particular I have always been a huge fan of director Fernando Mereilles and it was an honor to finally work directly on a film with him. His work is deeply musical and it was a wonderful journey to find the sound world for The Two Popes, which began with the intimate and incredible performances of Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce. This was the first film I’ve worked on a score where I got to visit the set as they were shooting in Rome for a few days and began composing in the room with the actors and crew.  The score has moments of more abstract minimal and layered orchestral music which I wrote for Benedict’s scenes, and then music inspired by Argentina folk music (in particular Mercedes Sosa and Dino Saluzzi) for which I spent a lot of time composing for the classical guitar again.”


Dessner collaborates with some of today’s most creative and respected artists, including Philip Glass, Katia and Marielle Labèque, Paul Simon, Sufjan Stevens, Johnny Greenwood, Bon Iver, Kelley O’Connor, Nico Muhly and Steve Reich, who named Dessner “a major voice of his generation.” His orchestrations can be heard on the new albums of Paul Simon and Bon Iver. Further film score credits include The Kitchen for Warner Bros. (2019) as well as The Two Popes by Oscar-nominated director Fernando Meirelles (2019).

I found the soundtrack for The Two Popes to be deeply relaxing. Dessner seemed intent on creating music that seemed to complement the mood you’d find in the Church and in two such high-ranking officials as Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Bergoglio. I have to confess that I was briefly confused by the tracks with classical guitar reminding me of Spain before I remembered that Bergoglio comes from Argentina (a Spanish-speaking country), in which case that style of music makes perfect sense.

Compared to other soundtracks I’ve listened to, the music for The Two Popes is pretty minimalistic, but that makes sense since the emphasis is supposed to be on the dialogue between Benedict XVI and Bergoglio. Too much music would be a distraction, and Dessner seems to have taken great care to not overdo his musical contributions to the film.

If you’re looking for a relaxing soundtrack to listen to, Bryce Dessner’s score for The Two Popes is a good choice. The soundtrack is available now from Milan Records.

Cuando Tenga la Tierra – Mercedes Sosa
Vote Counting
Ratzinger Election
Garden Dialogues
Was It Something I Said
Shifting Gardens
Bergoglio’s Awakening
Siete de Abril
Dirty War
Taken Away and Tortured
They Took Esther
Another Bergoglio
Walls 2
Pope Francis
Sombras de Buenos Aires
Minguito – Dino Saluzzi
Sastanàqqàm – Tinariwen
Besame Mucho – Ray Conniff & His Orchestra

Let me know what you think about The Two Popes and its soundtrack in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Film Soundtracks A-W

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1 thought on “Soundtrack Review: The Two Popes (2019)

  1. Pingback: Soundtrack Review: The Two Popes (2019) - 192kb

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