Thomas Newman: American Beauty

23 August 2014, 14:56 | Updated: 29 August 2014, 11:21

Making the most of Sam Mendes's provocative screenplay, Thomas Newman uses a range of percussion to create a complex rhythmic soundtrack.

The percussive instruments include marimbas, pianos, xylophones and bongos as well as more unconventional tools such as metal bowls. 

Newman's pensive and thoughtful music perfectly encapsulates the ennui of a mid-life crisis and a sense of suburban masculinity that is uncontrollably under threat in this 1999 film. 

While actor Kevin Spacey brought the central character of Lester Burnham to life, it's the music that gives us an insight into the mind of a man unprepared to invest in a society he no longer cares for. 

Possessing an almost ethereal and gossamer quality, Newman's soundtrack doesn't so much drive the narrative forward as float it along and it's one of the reasons that American Beauty's denouement is so powerfully shocking. Little surprise, then, that Newman's understated soundtrack nabbed a Grammy in 2000.