Anna Karenina (Dario Marianelli)

Final Musings: Anna Karenina offers a colourful array of Slavonic elements that once again display Marianelli’s usual degree of technical precision. Largely consisting of a series of waltzes and other forms of chamber music, the score requires time to take in and appreciate. And while it can be a rewarding experience in the end, it would have been nice to have heard some larger scale material from the ever talented composer. As it is, its a masterfully crafted work that you might not find yourself returning to very often.

Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina has often been considered one of the greatest literary works of realist fiction. Accordingly, the classic tale has seen countless adaptations on the big screen and after having earned great financial and critical success with period pieces like Atonement and Pride and Prejudice, director Joe Wright moves on to place his mark on the beloved Russian novel. Bringing back much of the crew that heralded his earlier triumphs, Wright sought to deviate away from the atypical nature of such costume dramas and dazzle viewers with his new interpretation. The result expectedly impressed critics although left some of the more traditionalists cold as they found the production to prefer style to heart. Regardless, the film will certainly garner a fair amount of attention during awards season.

And a Wright period piece would of course not be complete without composer Dario Marianelli waving his baton behind the screens. Marianelli’s music has often played a key, indispensable role in the director’s previous films, and to nobody’s surprise, the trend continues with Anna Karenina. The Italian composer is one of the most intelligent and admirable composers working in the industry today. His European sensibilities and elegant classicism offered a refreshing voice amidst tiring Hollywood conventions. Although his true gems lie in his darker fantasy material, Marianeli’s career lifted off the success of period pieces like Pride and Prejudice. With Anna Karenina being yet another one of those ventures, expectations were rather high for this score. Read the rest of this entry »


For Greater Glory (James Horner)

Final Musings: Much of how you feel towards Horner’s self-borrowing tendencies will determine how you feel towards this score. Pulling pages directly from past works like The Four Feathers, Avatar, The Missing, Braveheart and Titanic, it will be tempting for some to throw the score out the window. But despite its lack of originality, Horner shows once again how capable the composer is of putting together great music. With an intelligent execution of musical colours, thematic development and emotional resonance that is expected of the man when it comes to projects like this, listeners may find it hard to not enjoy this work. For what this score lacks in originality, it makes up for in sheer gratification.

Old fashioned Hollywood style epics like El Cid and Lawrence of Arabia are just not made anymore. They had to back down to make way for the heights of today’s CGI giants. But every now and then, some foreign production will try to relive the glory days of the once beloved genre of film, sometimes with great success. For Greater Glory is such an attempt, although perhaps without the success it aspired to achieve. The film is the directorial debut of veteran visual effects supervisor Dean Wright, a man whose name is attached to gargantuan blockbusters like Titanic and The Lord of the Rings. Set it in Mexico, the narrative sheds light on the unsung rebellion that came of the Mexican government’s persecution of the Catholic Church; also known as the Cristero War. Having signed on stars like Peter O’Toole and Andy Garcia, Wright certainly hoped to have quite a lavish production laid before him. And while the picture was praised for its ambitious scope, it was ultimately bogged down by paper-thin characters, a poorly written screenplay and overbearing pro-Catholic overtones, consequently passing into relative obscurity without making much of a splash. 

On the bright side, the film gave composer James Horner the chance to score yet another grand scale ethnic drama, which is always a welcomed affair. Now, anyone who’s rather familiar with Horner’s body of work should be aware of his aggravating “self-borrowing” tendencies. One can’t help but wonder how the composer thinks he can get away with so many rip-offs of his classics over the years, but he seems to be fine with it. Accordingly, there seems to be two major schools of thought that Horner fans have assembled themselves into. One consists of those who have become tired of Horner’s recycling and seeing no end in sight, they’ve dismissed him as a talentless hack who’s trying to relive the glory days of his career. On the other hand, we have those who have chosen to accept the man’s flaws and embrace his reuse habits as if his selective group of motifs and themes are being developed throughout his career as an ever evolving symphony. Where you lie in the matter more or less dictates how you’ll feel about this score.

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