June 2006 Film Music CD Reviews

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

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V for Vendetta  
Music composed by Dario Marianelli
Performed by Unnamed Orchestra, with Synergy (vocals), Paul Clarvis (specialist percussion) and Jody Jenkins (percussion programming)
Conducted and orchestrated by Benjamin Wallfisch
Except: ‘1812 Overture’, written by Pyotr Tchaikovsky; ‘Cry me a river’, performed by Julie London, written by Arthur Hamilton; ‘I found a reason’, performed by Cat Power, written by Lou Reed; ‘Bird Gurhl’, performed by Antony and the Johnsons, written by Anthony Hegarty
Produced by Errol Kolosine and Dario Marianelli
  Available on EMI – Astralwerks (0946 3 5834 2 2)
Running Time: 63:07
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See also:

  • Brothers Grimm
  • Pride and Prejudice
  • From Hell
  • Dear Wendy
  • As Dario Marianelli is a relatively new composer to me, I approached this score with a mixture of anticipation and trepidation. It is exciting to hope that you will uncover some new, bright talent, but unfortunately experience tells me that disappointment is all too often the case. Thankfully, in this case at least, there is good reason to be enthusiastic as Marianelli’s work, on what I personally feel is one of the best films of the year so far, has enough emotional depth and resonance, along with some effective bombast, to hail him as a force in film music to be reckoned with.

    The score itself takes time to build, focusing on mood in the early stages with only an understated use of theme or melody. It’s all very percussive with lots of brooding brass, but nonetheless always remains interesting and persuasive. However, it’s not until mid-way through the album, specifically the tracks ‘Valerie’ and ‘Evey Reborn’ that the composer really begins to shine, and with these two pieces the score becomes something truly stirring and poignant. Although Marianelli had subtly introduced a four chord motif earlier in the score, it is here that it finally comes through coherently and with real power. I don’t know if it’s just me but there was something within the orchestration on the mid section of ‘Valerie’ that recalled James Newton Howard’s incredible work on Signs (2002), but whatever the case, it’s wonderful stuff and also features a rather beautiful, melancholic segment towards the end that will linger in the memory. The simple but undeniably affecting key motif reaches a dynamic crescendo on ‘Evey Reborn’ and these two tracks are really the heart of the score. Without them it would have been a far less significant work. From here, the concluding tracks gradually turn up the heat as we move towards a potent, explosive (literally!) conclusion and Marianelli even manages to end with Tchaikovsky’s ‘1812 Overture’.

    The three songs interspersed throughout the soundtrack are acceptable, with Julie London’s rendition of ‘Cry Me a River’ probably the best, although Cat Power’s vocal on Lou Reed’s ‘I Found A Reason’ works extremely well in the film itself.

    When I watched V for Vendetta, I found it to be a provocative, challenging experience and the score compliments its images perfectly. Most gratifying of all for soundtrack enthusiasts is that the music also works as a stand-alone piece that has a heart and soul all of its own. By nature it is often dark and forbidding and yet there is a strong undercurrent of emotion. Listen for it and it may surprise and move you, as it did me.

    Mark Hockley

    Rating: 4

    Michael McLennan adds:-

    I really like the subtle thematic development in this score, the same tracks that Mark noted standing out for me as well. I would add to the highlights ‘Lust at the Abbey’ with its blend of plainchant choir and Marianelli’s brooding orchestra layers; and also ‘Knives and Bullets (and Cannons too)’, which builds and build martially to a climax that reinforces some of the allusions in the story to Guy Fawkes Day and the tradition of British anarchism with Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture (complete with cannons and fireworks).

    In many ways it feels like a work that could have come from Trevor Jones, specifically the composer’s From Hell. The subtler work here puts it above that monothematic score, but those who like the score for the Jack-the-Ripper film will find this score very much to their taste, if a little more oriented to the action than pathos.

    On the whole it’s not a work that plays as well away from the film as it does within it, and sadly a climactic cue is missing, but it holds together well and shows off another side of the composer of In this World, The Brothers Grimm and Pride and Prejudice. In what must surely be a rare event in soundtrack album history, the source cues here make for nice interludes, particularly ‘Bird Guhrl’.

    Conductor/orchestrator Benjamin Wallfisch is the subject of another review in this edition for his score for Thomas Vinterberg’s Dear Wendy. (See link above.)

    Michael McLennan


    Tina Huang adds:-

    V for Vendetta may reveal another side of Dario Marianelli, but it's not a facet that's at all mind-blowing, intriguing, or phenomenal. This is due in part to the film's tasteless incoherence, inept direction, and uber-tweaked screenplay/production. The visual élan of Vendetta is more than enough fodder for even the most creatively sterile composer, but Marianelli (as heard in Pride and Prejudice) isn't about scoring the obvious. The composer's acute sensitivity to nuances and gradient tones renders him powerless to tame Vendetta's surging mess of symbolic dross—in your face drivel that becomes almost like the histrionics of a walk-on, ham-fisted prima donna. The subtle, yet constant unevenness of the score is proof that he doesn't quite know how to wrestle with the beast when it rampages through the film.

    When dark visuals and cerebral surrealism run amok, two composers, that can turn virtually anything to sonic gold, come to my mind: Elliot Goldenthal (Interview with the Vampire, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within) and Wojciech Kilar (Bram Stoker's Dracula, The Ninth Gate). Had either of these composers been at the musical helm for Vendetta—which is mostly set darkness and abstract absurdity, the score could've become something of substance.

    Tina Huang

    In-Film and Standalone Average: 3

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