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 »


Agora (Dario Marianelli)

Final Musings: Dario Marianelli delivers his finest score and arguably the best of 2009. The extraordinary scope of this textural epic is evident in its rousing orchestral and choral force. The diversity of the score in its ethnic instrumentation is commendable. And praise must be given for the technical aspects of the score that so brilliantly aid the film in conveying its many complex messages. It may not appeal to listeners looking for easily recognizable themes, but this score needs time to grown on you (as all great scores do). A marvelous feat for any composer. 

In 2009, Alejandro Amenabar’s historical epic, Agora, was let loose on the world. Due to its controversial nature however, much of North America did not have the opportunity to experience it (those who did, benefited from its limited release in the US). A shame, as the film is a unique and intellectual venture into the genre of ‘toga movies’. Historically, the film covers the fall of classical antiquity, the Christianization of the Roman Empire and the destruction of the great library of Alexandria. However, the film largely expands upon the life of the brilliant female philosopher and astronomer, Hypatia. The film’s plot follows Hypatia’s discovery of the elliptical shape of our orbits, the life of her former slave Davus along with Hypatia’s disciples and the religious turmoil that the philosopher caused with her theories that unfortunately led to her death by a mob (although this is portrayed differently for dramatic effect in film). By utilizing these great historical events and the beautiful landscape of the ancient city of Alexandria, Amenabar makes powerful statements about the dangers of religious conflict, the relationship between faith and science and importance of furthering scientific ventures. It altogether creates a great film with excellent actors (primarily Rachel Weisz), beautiful cinematography, grand sets and intellectual depth. The use of extensive symbolism throughout the novel carries the viewers along with Hypatia’s journey into the realization of the wonders of the universe. One must commend the film in its epic scope and attempt to cover these many intellectual statements effectively. The film however, was met with mixed reactions due to its historical inaccuracies and its negative yet clearly controversial portrayal of Christians. Moreover, the many concepts were not tied together as well as it could have been thus resulting in a lack of cohesiveness in the film. Regardless, a great film with this kind of scope needed a powerful musical atmosphere to guide the viewers on the emotional journey. And on all accounts, Marianelli delivers with an extraordinary score that is arguably his best yet. Read the rest of this entry »