If filmmaking is the most intensely collaborative of all arts, it follows that the true test of a great filmmaker lies in their choice of repeat collaborators. Several names come immediately to mind: Kurosawa and Mifune, Scorsese and Schoonmaker, Kieślowski and Preisner, Tremaine and Knoxville. And it is into this august company that one must place Pedro Almodóvar and composer Alberto Iglesias, whose work has profoundly enriched the great director’s entire mature period.
Of course, Iglesias could count his name among the 21st century’s preeminent film scorers even if his path had never crossed Almodóvar's, but it’s on their joint accomplishments that the hearts of both their reputations rest. Much like the wildly different yet spiritually linked women at the center of Parallel Mothers, the interplay between these two aesthetically dissimilar artists results in a rare sort of alchemy — Iglesias’ stately control both grounding and complicating Almodóvar’s lurid excitability — and their 13th collaboration may indeed be their crowning achievement.
Structured around recognizable yet slippery motifs, and conceived as something like the most mournful thriller soundtrack imaginable, Iglesias’ Parallel Mothers score is a marvel of understatement and counterintuitivity. Gently descending piano lines collide with sharp, anxious strings at the most unexpected moments. Hints of distinctly Iberian percussion arise here and there, much like the vestiges of incompletely buried Spanish history that haunt the film itself. Mundane scenes spent checking email or cooking a tortilla española take on an edge of tension and intrigue. And when the film finally unleashes its most explosive secret, it’s here that Iglesias’ score flowers into its most cerebral, contemplative form.
Iglesias has spoken of his desire to add “just another color” to Almodóvar’s films, rather than overpower them with bombastic themes. This might sound like a modest goal, until you recall the importance of certain colors (red, most obviously) to Almodóvar’s work, and Iglesias’ music is the most important color of all.
— Andrew Barker