Russland (Kolja Erdmann)

Final Musings: Kolja Erdmann may not be well known outside of his homeland, but his work for Russland is definitely warranting some more attention. A score of magnificent scope in its choral splendor and orchestral lyricism, listeners will be blown away by the stunning music of this score. While some may find some hints of influence from Zimmer’s score for King Arthur, this score still offers some of the best material of its year. Ladies and gentlemen, if you have not done so, make it a priority to obtain this hidden gem of 2011.

Countless nature documentary features have attempted to get the importance of environmental protection to mainstream audiences by dazzling them with the stunning beauty of planet Earth, and this is done often with great success (look to BBC’s infamous Planet Earth series or the Blue Planet). Russland is the cinematic incarnation of the series Wildes Russland (Wild Russia). The German production team definitely approached the concept with great ambition in mind, and it’s hard not to argue for their success. Spending over 3 years of filming to capture over 100, 000 miles of land within 600 hours of raw material is indeed quite a feat. They really hoped to capture all of Russia onto their film. The film’s scope is impressive with absolutely stunning imagery and an epic portrayal of Russia’s landscapes. It is interesting to note that usually nature documentaries of grand scope come along with scores of equal scope as shown by Geroge Fenton’s countless efforts for BBC productions. It is the one genre that film score fans can still count on for grand orchestral scores.

Kolja Erdmann does not fail to attest to this notion. The German composer has often scored a variety of nature features in his homeland and with this score; Erdmann seems to be giving it his all. The score is colossal in scope and surprisingly dramatic. With dark and mature tones, the music suggests an epic along the heights of big Hollywood pictures such as Gladiator or Ben-Hur (although the actual scores of these films could not be more different). In fact, the music can be so massive at times that one cannot help but think how a work as impressively dominant as this could be attuned to footage of narration over shots of nature. Russland must be an impressive documentary indeed to feature such a score. There is much to love in a production like this. It features rich themes, dynamic orchestral colours and rousing choral work to consistently keep listeners in awe. Read the rest of this entry »


W.E. (Abel Korzeniowski)

Final Musings: Lovers of A Single Man will be glad to hear Abel Korzeniowski take that sound in a more potent, romantic direction, accordingly giving them one of the most beautiful scores of the year and a fantastic example of how simplicity can often work wonders. Unfortunately, the narrative arc of the score suffers from the classic case of “director picks on the composer” scenario. In a clash between pop and traditional sensibilities, a score with fantastic potential is slightly diminished in its impact. Nevertheless, this score is a treat that no film score fan in their right mind would miss.

America’s “queen of pop”, Madonna has often tried to spread her wings beyond her pop career, yet not always with successful results. Having been panned by critics for her directorial debut, the short film, Filth and Wisdom, it seems that Madonna did not intend to give up in this specific field. Now advertised as Madonna’s directorial debut of a full feature film, W.E. is the veteran star’s attempt at creating an artsy Oscar-bait film. Often proclaiming it as her “dream project”, Madonna’s film hasn’t really improved her standing in the film world. W.E. is about a woman in the modern day by the name of Wally Wintrhop. Wally, fascinated by the infamous affair between King Edward VIII, the only British monarch to have abdicated the throne and Wallis Simpson, the woman who stole his heart. Throughout the film, she begins to realize that it was not the perfect love relation she thought it was and finds herself connecting to Wallis through her own romantic struggles. Critics found themselves baffled by the lack logic in the over-stylized film and the overbearing precedence that is given to the fashion driven elements of the set rather than the narrative. The film has often been dubbed as a “perfume commercial, or a feature-length documentary on shopping tips on expensive designer tips. One of the more redeeming features of this project however, is Abel Korzeniowksi.

Korzeniowski is an extremely talented composer who has scored many Polish films with amazing scores (and yet often underrated) like Copernicus Star. Madonna was first introduced to the polish composer through fashion designer Tom Ford’s own critically acclaimed directorial debut, A Single Man. Bewitched by the bittersweet nature of the solo cello work and the alluring string writing from Korzeniowski’s highly effective, Golden Globe nominated score; Madonna became adamant on obtaining the same sound for her own film. After all, the singer did hope to mimic the stylized nature of Ford’s production, so why not share some of the successful production elements? And so, after having approached Tom Ford on his thoughts, the man was hired for quite the adventure. Read the rest of this entry »

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (Hans Zimmer)

Final Musings: Hans Zimmer delivers yet another disappointment. The themes are anonymous in nature, the mixing is downright awful and the album is a hazardous listening experience. However, the action music can be enjoyable for some and there is a sense of genuine spirit in the Romanian music that shows that Zimmer had fun creating this score. Unfortunately, the score ends up being less a score and more of a compilation of ‘jamming sessions’. Fans looking towards Zimmer’s return to his better works will leave this album, severely disappointed.

Guy Ritchie’s entertaining (and some devotees of Arthur Conan Doyle might say blasphemous) adaption of the universally known stories of Sherlock Holmes fared surprisingly well, especially against the box office titan that was Avatar. With the stellar pairing of Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law eager for more, and the great revenues, it wasn’t surprising to see studios push for a sequel. This new film, Game of Shadows (Shadows, not Thrones ;)) is largely based off of Conan Doyle’s The Final Problem in which we are introduced to Holmes’ equal and greatest rival, Professor James Moriarty. While disappointment is the usual routine with sequels, critics found the film to be surprisingly entertaining, or as Roger Ebert likes to put it, “high caliber entertainment”.  I’m not sure if he would say the same for the score.

Returning with the crew for the sequel is Hans Zimmer. Zimmer has been quite busy with assignments this year as is expected of one of the most sought after composers in Hollywood. While the composer has occasionally proven himself worthy of his prominence with some of his great work, the man’s recent work has been rather disappointing. If one were to look specifically at this case, it would require a look over the shoulder to the first film. With Sherlock Holmes, Zimmer surprised many of his critics with some of his most humorously fresh and comically engaging material in quite a while (especially at a time where his predictable style became tiring). While the main theme may herald back to Jack Sparrow’s quirkiness and several of the composers trademark “Zimmerisms” are apparent in the score, rarely has he packaged them in such a way. Saturated in eclectic Celtic and gypsy tones (much like an Irish pub), the score was an incredibly entertaining and refreshing experience for fans who were tired of Zimmer’s more predictable side. Back in 2009, Zimmer was still going strong with great scores like the blood-pumping Angels and Demons and the more intelligently stimulating score for the drama, Frost/Nixon. Yet after the composer’s success with his bland score for 2010’s Inception, the composer has rarely failed to disappoint with horrible album releases for Rango and half ass efforts for On Strangers’ Tide (can’t forget the excruciatingly painful remixes of latter, can we?). Yet to the few Zimmer fans clinging on to the hope that Zimmer will prove  his critics wrong, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows seemed like the ideal opportunity. One could argue that a good deal of hype was built towards this score. Considering how the Celtic flavor and the gypsy tones really worked to the previous score’s favour, you can imagine the expectations set with this score. And Zimmer’s trip to Slovakia for further research and inspiration for the gypsy music certainly helped maintain the hype (but that’s what these publicity stunts tend to do). People will probably approach the score expecting the refreshing, creative, undeniably fun experience that was the first score. Unfortunately, this will most definitely not be the case with this score. Read the rest of this entry »