With the rejection of Howard Shore’s score
for Peter Jackson’s remake of King Kong, this new collaboration
director the composer has a far longer relationship with, David
takes on perhaps greater significance. While many have speculated as to
Shore’s music for Kong was discarded, the most obvious reason
be that it sounded just too reminiscent of The Lord of the Rings. And
the score to A History of Violence, at least initially, gives
credence to this argument. ‘Tom’, for instance, begins with a pastoral
whose first few notes strongly mirror the ‘Hobbiton’ sections of
of the Rings work, whereas ‘Diner’ could very easily have been
directly from any one of the Tolkien trilogy. Which is not to say that
tracks are not fine film music in their own right, but they certainly
Shore still with his composing mind very much in Middle Earth.
track, ‘Hero’, features a section that if played independently, many
hard pressed to recognise as non-Rings material.
this preliminary analysis is superficial at best and repeat plays
reveal a far
more complex structure. The frenetic ‘Run’, while recognisably within
composer’s usual range, adds a little more individual colour and as the
develops, subtly at first and then more distinctly, a singular identity
that finally distances it from any lingering similarities to his
previous work. As the film itself also concerns issues of identity,
this is an
interesting aspect in terms of appreciating the work as a whole. Pieces
‘The Staircase’ build on and establish Shore’s motifs of brooding
anticipation, always tinged with a sense of tragic inevitability. But
of the score appears towards the end of the CD, as the tension mounts
is able to use his wonderful talent for pathos and poignancy
demonstrated by the first half of ‘The Road’).
What this soundtrack certainly proves, if
there was any doubt, is that this composer is an artist who takes his
seriously. And within this there is another potential reason for his
from King Kong. A true artist always has a personal vision.
the fact that Peter Jackson too is an artist in his own right, it seems
reasonable that on occasions two artistic approaches may clash. Jackson
has been recently quoted as saying that Shore’s work just didn’t
Fortunately there is no such division between David Cronenberg and
Howard Shore. For over twenty-five years now they have produced
exciting, innovative work
together. A History of Violence continues that trend.
Jeffrey Wheeler adds:-
In director David
Cronenberg's adaptation of John Wagner & Vince Locke's graphic
History of Violence, the proprietor of a diner in small-town
Indiana creates--or uncovers--his own violent history when he thwarts a
pair of armed
robbers, sharply affecting himself, his family, and his community in
Writing for the
soundtrack's liner notes, composer Howard Shore describes this, his
collaboration with Cronenberg, as an exploration of "the visceral
between good and evil," along the lines of classic Westerns. This is
in the music, which is simultaneously discordant and expansive, a bit
Aaron Copland’s darker Americana, although a number of the
more to Charles Ives.
While less melodic than
Shore's music for The Lord of the Rings, the soundtrack is
nevertheless subtly tuneful. The overly familiar high droning of the
track gives way to an intriguing listen, with the track 'Tom'
main character's theme in a horn-led pastoral setting and 'Diner'
malevolent motif for... malevolence. Tom's melody goes through tortured
permutations along with the lead character, accentuated by passages,
the love scene ('The Staircase'), that attempt to step back to the
environs of 'Tom' but never regain a solid foothold.
Clocking in at almost
two and a half minutes, 'Run' contains the longest stretch of pure
scoring, giving propulsive strings and brass hits a brief but intense
This is a character-driven score, so there is not much call for
tracks. Instead, we hear symphonic brutality that is epic in scope,
like what one hears in The Lord of the Rings, but rather than
us a lot of busyness (the usual Hollywood shortcut for action music) it
merely declarative. The effect is chilling.
If there is anything
seriously wrong with this superb balancing act, it is that it veers
monotony toward the end. The composer pushes his approach almost beyond
The director's own
notes glowingly refer to Howard Shore as an unseen actor infusing films
character. Listening to the A History of Violence album, that
actually feels appropriate. I can believe it.