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December 2005 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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The Brothers Grimm  
Music composed by Dario Marianelli
Orchestrated and conducted by Benjamin Wallfisch
Special percussion: Simon Allen, Paul Clarvis
Vocals: Dessislava Stefanova
Boy sopranos: The London Oratory School Schola, Michael Watkins, Takuya Kikuchi
  Available on Milan (301728-1)
Running Time: 71:52
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Being a saga of European story-tellers caught-up in the very sort of fantastical adventures they tell in their tales, Terry Gilliam’s latest film echoes his vastly under-valued The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988). The music by Dario Marianelli (recently responsible for the latest cinematic incarnation of Pride and Prejudice) is a decidedly less melodic and accessible affair than Michael Kamen’s score for Gilliam’s earlier gem, and if at 71 minutes vastly outstays its welcome on disc, it does afford some pleasures.

The opening ‘Dickensian Beginnings’ is gently, melodic, with woodwinds over languorous strings, an almost lullaby-like quality being a now obvious precursor of cinematic malevolence. Then 85 seconds in the music changes out of all character, into an ominously militaristic march, with oddly, given the cue title and the German nationality of the film’s heroes, distinct Russian overtones. The spirit of Prokofiev is nearby, while the following ‘Shrewd Thespians’ has the astringent humour of Shostakovich. Later Tchaikovsky ballet is summoned in the opening of ‘The Eclipse Begins’, and there are playful nods to other classical composers scattered through the score – spot the other famous tune skilfully reworked in ‘The Eclipse Begins’.

Balanced against this playfulness is a darkness which particularly recalls the seductively evoked evil of Christopher Young’s horror scores, from Hellraiser to Bless The Child. In places the effects are spine-tinglingly effective, with rich orchestrations and considerable invention. Elsewhere the composer resorts to horrific electronics which cross the line from the musical into the realm of sound effects, and do not make for enjoyable listening. And throughout the composer recourses to a relentless everything-and-the-kitchen-sink cacophonic assault. Indeed, the 9 minute ‘The Forest Comes to Life’ is an example of a dark set-piece which rapidly becomes tiresome, substituting endless effect for a developed musical through-line and coherent melodic material.

Given an hour of such stuff the penultimate ‘And They Lived Happily After’ comes as a serious relief, a soaring fairy-tale rhapsody which is by far the highlight of the disc, showcasing the composer’s fine melodic gifts. The ‘End Credits’ reprise the march theme from the opening, but do so briefly, abruptly fading after two minutes, doubtless to make way for the inevitable mood shattering rock song which thankfully isn’t included here.

Dario Marianelli is clearly a talented composer, though this score and album do not show him at his best, focusing as do all too many modern scores on volume of sound over quality of music. Nevertheless the composer is one to watch out for. I suspect we will be paying much more attention to him in the near future.

Gary Dalkin

2.5

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