March 2001 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

index page/ monthly listings /March01/

(additional music by Klaus Badelt, Patrick Cassidy, Martin Tillman, Mel Wesson)
Gavin Greenaway conducting 'The Lyndhurst Orchestra' Libera Boys Choir
Decca 467 696-2 [54:15]
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Here's something to ponder. Big name directors normally take two or three years from one film to the next, so why in the last year has Stephen Soderbergh managed to release Erin Brockovich swiftly followed by Traffic, Robert Zemeckis rapidly follow What Lies Beneath with Cast Away and Ridley Scott have Hannibal on screen just nine months after the premiere of Gladiator? Hannibal, the second sequel to Manhunter (1986), reunites Scott with Gladiator composer, Hans Zimmer. Between the two pictures Zimmer scored Mission: Impossible 2 , the phenomenal success of all three surely making him new king of the film music world.

Zimmer actually has a long-standing association with the Scott brothers; before Gladiator there was Black Rain (1989) and Thelma and Louise (1991), for Ridley, and Days of Thunder (1990), True Romance (1993) and Crimson Tide (1995) for Tony. Now, on the evidence of this album I would say that Hannibal, even with the presence of four co-composers and a whole team of arrangers and orchestrators, is the finest Zimmer score I have heard. I am less happy with the presentation of the music on the disc.

Hannibal, the soundtrack album is very much 'produced', rather like Vangelis soundtrack releases (think of Blade Runner and 1492: Conquest of Paradise), designed as complete listening experience when divorced from the film. The tracks have been sequenced to run one into the next producing a seamless flow, which is all very well for listening to the entire CD, but makes programming individual cues a problem. Further, various production tricks have been employed, including a very gimmicky and mood-shattering final snippet of dialogue and musical 'sting' after the final cue. On top of this, and the source of considerable controversy in some quarters, is the overlaying of three monologues by Sir Anthony Hopkins (who plays the titular Hannibal.) Personally I think this has been well done, the writing good and the result highly atmospheric, but it still detracts from the music. If I want to hear the dialogue I'll watch the film; the whole point of a soundtrack album is to present the music free of dialogue and sound effects.

For such a dark, bloody and outright horrific film, this is an exceptionally romantic score, which even allowing for the use of a considerable amount of electronic processing, harks back to the classical, European elegance of John William's The Fury (1978) and Dracula (1979) and Jerry Goldsmith's The Boys From Brazil (1977) (there is a strong Viennese connection between the two scores, and at a couple of places what seems like a direct reference) rather than the stark string textures of Howard Shore's The Silence of the Lambs (1991) or the everything-and-the-kitchen-sink sonic overkill of too many recent horror movies.

Just as Zimmer drew on Wagner for inspiration in Gladiator, so again a Wagnerian yearning runs throughout this score, reaching an apotheosis in the gorgeous string rhapsody of 'To Every Captive Heart'. While a short piece of Bach from the Goldberg Variations is woven into the tapestry early on, a further influence comes from the Christian choral tradition, some of the writing taking direction from Bach, Vivaldi and Mozart. Indeed, the final 'Vide Cor Meum' sounds rather like a spare section from Mozart's Requiem fused with just a hint of a Europe pop-classical crossover duet.

'Gourmet Waltz Tartare' plays an unsettling variation on Strauss' The Blue Danube, an especially amusing musical in-joke for a film released in 2001, the accelerating tempo and increasingly dangerous orchestration leading into a bass ostinato passage with the aforementioned echo of The Boys From Brazil. The entire sequence written not by Zimmer, but by Klaus Badelt. 'Avarice' introduces a sinister and very beguiling lullaby melody on reverberant bells while 'For A Small Stipend' has a flavour of the pulsating rhythms Zimmer used so successfully in The Assassin (Point of No Return) (1993), the overlaid samples being highly suggestive of Peter Gabriel's The Last Temptation of Christ (1988).

With all this polish there is very little all-out 'horror' music, just a smattering of dark electronic soundscapes and highly accomplished string and choral writing which points towards matters eternal; suggesting the horror is in the soul, the blood on-screen sufficient evidence of hell on earth - the use of the 'Agnus Dei' in 'Let My Home be My Gallows' bears comparison with Eliot Goldenthal's funeral music for Alien3 (1992). The series of tracks beginning with 'Virtue' and running through 'Let My Home be My Gallows' and 'The Burning Heart' right to the end of the album contain much music of luxuriant lamenting beauty, and make one wish the film had been able to do justice to its score. The album is very richly produced, though anyone with a subwoofer may wish to turn it right down; as with Mission: Impossible 2 the bass is mixed way to high.

Gary S. Dalkin

(one star deducted for the inclusion of dialogue)

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