On listening to the score for prisoners I thought that it was in a word “slow”, the music is rather downbeat and as far as I was concerned went nowhere, it developed very little momentum, and also there were no real themes as it were. But after seeing the movie and hearing the score in conjunction with the images and the tense storyline, I realized just how good a score this is, ok it may be rather subdued and also is certainly not an action, knock em down and drag em out kind of soundtrack, but it is highly effective within the movie, it creates a fraught tension and also a fearful and edgy atmosphere because the composer Johann Johannsson has very cleverly scored away from the action or has produced a score that underlines subtly  the tension and what is going on up on the screen, therefore by scoring it in this way he creates an even greater tension and also enhances the story line making it even more dramatic and hard hitting. The soundtrack is performed mainly by strings, with a scattering of woodwind, there is also present organ and at times the hint of the Ondes Martinot, but it is not overwhelming or even centre stage of proceedings, it kind of skirts around the edges of the compositions, being a background or an introduction rather than a main player, but again because of the way in which the composer has utilized the instrument it becomes even more effective and is successful in creating the required atmosphere. This is a dark and somewhat bleak sounding score, it relies on low and at times half heard sounds to achieve the required goal, there is also some solo cello work within the score, normally cello is an instrument that kind of sings and is ideal to relay an atmosphere of solitude or emotion, on this occasion it is used as a darker and more sinister component and again the composer is successful in creating a richly tense ambiance via his utilization of the instrument. However the cello  returns in the cue ESCAPE, this time in a more emotional sounding role, supported by tense strings, the instrument relays a sense of emptiness and solitude, until it is overwhelmed by growling electronics that usher in choral work that is eerie and unsettling, cello returns as does the electronic sounds that rumble and growl in the background, choir again becoming prominent and all three components combine to create a piece that is certainly gripping and unnerving in its style and ambiance. This I am sure will not be the last big movie that Johannsson works on.



Based on the novel THE GIRL FROM ANTWERP, this Slovakian/Czechoslovakian co-production is a movie that relates to us the real horrors of the Holocaust and also tells the story of a loving relationship that develops despite the horrors that are being committed within the confines of Auschwitz.  The music is by Atli  Örvarsson who recently completed scoring MORTAL INSTRUMENTS, many collectors have questioned the merits of  as a Örvarsson composer of film scores, but I have seen or at least heard things within his music that have made me stop and think and even go back and listen again, and I think that he is a very talented and more importantly a highly original composer. I must admit however that COLETTE is somewhat different from the normal musical style that we expect from the composer, this is a score that is quite lush in its style and orchestration, it relies quite heavily upon the string section of the orchestra and the composer has written one of the most haunting and appealing love themes for this score. The compact disc opens with the main theme from the movie and this is breathtaking, it contains a full and romantic central theme which opens in a fairly subdued and even is a little apprehensive, but as the music begins to develop and the composition stats to grow, the composer utilizes the string section, which is supported by piano and also harp, strings then provide a mid tempo background to plaintive piano and pensive woodwinds that develop the central theme even more and then pass it back to the string section for a delicate and low key working, which brings the opening cue to its close. Track number 2, THE DIAMOND, is also a version of the central theme, but this time the composer approaches it with a slightly more subdued way, solo oboe is utilized, with low underlining strings providing a slightly dark sounding background, as the cue progresses,  Örvarsson passes the piece to various sections of the orchestra, but all the time maintaining a low key and rather subdued persona. The theme is there and it builds slowly and gradually but never really reaches a climax, strings take on the theme once again and add a certain luxurious sound to the proceedings. The first time we hear a more forceful and dramatic line of scoring is in track number 3, WORK SHOP OF EVIL, employs strident strings and percussion to great effect, the composer again gradually building his composition and adding level upon level of tension via strings that are supported by various percussive elements and martial sounding timpani. Track number 4, MERCI MON AMOUR, is a further working or arrangement of the scores central theme, on this occasion it seems a little more romantic and emotive with harp punctuating strings and also woods in a delicate and affecting version of the theme.


Track 5, CREMATORIUM, is a darker piece all together, ominous sounding strings that are intertwined with sparse use of woodwind, create a daunting and somewhat uncomfortable atmosphere, rumbling percussion acts as a background to strings to create an almost foreboding or fearful sounding composition. Track number 7, FREE AS A BIRD, is at first a heart warming and highly romantic sounding cue, again strings and piano are the mainstay of the piece, which is brief but effective, and although short lived it alters mood midway through and the atmosphere changes from a light near happy one to a more threatening or hopeless sounding ambiance. Track number 8, PRAYING FOR WILLIE is an emotive musical journey which radiates a melancholy and also a sound that seems to say hopeless and maybe forgotten, piano performs a slightly fragmented version of the central theme, underscored by low strings, solo violin is then brought into the mix accompanied by oboe and given support from strings, this is a bitter sweet sounding piece that is probably my favourite cue from the score. Overall I have to say that COLETTE is probably the best Atli  Örvarsson score I have heard, it is powerful because it contains so much emotion and also is filled with drama and passion. Please do not miss out on this release. Recommended totally. Available on movie score media/kronos.



When I first saw the trailers and also publicity posters for HOCUS POCUS I was under the impression that is was just another of those Disney kids Halloween movies, which in a roundabout way I suppose it is, but on going to the cinema to see it the first thing that struck me was the infectious and also powerful music that opened the film and the subsequent score itself. In the impressive opening sequence we see the silhouette of a witch in flight on her broom reflected upon the coastal waters of Salem as John Debney,s exciting, sweeping and flyaway sounding theme gets proceedings underway.

The short but highly effective main title which becomes one of the central themes of the score establishes itself quickly and conjures (forgive the pun) up a fantastic atmosphere that is filled with urgency and also mischief and an impish ambiance. The energetic theme subsides as the witch lands in the autumnal and colourful countryside near a farm and the audience see that we are in fact in the late 17th Century and not in the present day. The Witch entices a young girl Emily from her home and Debney laces the beginning of this sequence with the composition entitled, GARDEN OF MAGIC, a haunting and delightfully melodic theme that is introduced on piano and mirrored by glockenspiel and touches from triangle, this is further enhanced by woodwind and a light dusting of strings which then rise to develop the theme fully with horns creeping into the composition changing its mood and atmosphere to something that is far more urgent and dramatic as the abducted girls older brother realizes that she has been taken by the witch and sees that a green smoke is rising from the woodland where there lair is, he sends his friend to summon the elders of the village for help and then follows the witch and his sister into the woods in a desperate attempt to rescue her.

The cue, GARDEN OF MAGIC was actually composed by James Horner.  Horner had been the composer originally commissioned to write the score for HOCUS POCUS, and had penned GARDEN OF MAGIC when the movie was in pre-production because the character portrayed by Sarah Jessica Parker had to sing it in the movie. Due to schedule clashes Horner found himself unable to continue working on the composition of the score and he had to pull out. Disney then had to find a composer and Horner and producer David Kirschner suggested John Debney to the studio. Debney utilized Horner’s theme and integrated it into the fabric of his own score, arranging it in a number of different ways and also combining it with his own original thematic properties. In fact track number 2, GARDEN OF MAGIC and THACKERY FOLLOWS EMILY are credited to Horner with Debney acting as arranger and conductor.

Debney’s score for HOCUS POCUS is in a word huge, it is performed by a 92 piece symphony orchestra with choral support and is filled with wistful and grand sweeping musical passages that at times give a gentle nod of recognition to John Williams or maybe in the real action set pieces a hint of Wagner. The work literally overflows with dramatic sounding compositions, and oozes poignant segments which are tinged with melancholy, these are perfectly complimented by and interspersed with comedic undertones that at times can really be filed under the Mickey Mousing style of film scoring simply because of their little nuances and strategically timed and placed appearances add much to the screen action and events. This I think is demonstrated to great effect in the cue, WITCHES LAIR, where one of the Witches Winnie Sanderson (Bette Midler) floors Thackery Binx with one gesture of her finger, Debney effectively underlines this action with a synchronized two note stab. The soundtrack has never received an official release, the score was issued on a promo compact disc but this is now ultra rare and has a high price tag attached to it. The original release contained 19 tracks where as this excellent expanded release from Intrada has a whopping 27 cues from the score and a further 5 labelled as EXTRAS at the end of the CD, it also contains the vocal SARAH’S THEME which has to be a bonus in any ones book of spells.

The original promo, ran for 43 mins, here we are treated to 74 mins and 25 seconds of gloriously entertaining and effervescent music. Debney’s score is in my opinion just as entertaining as the film itself, the music being larger than life and as over the top at times as Bette Midler’s highly entertaining performance and as quirky as Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy’s brilliant characters, the music works with the movie and also has an identity of its own away from the images it was written to enhance, it is an imposing and attractive work that is even more impressive because it was the composers first work for the big screen. I cannot recommend this soundtrack enough, my suggestion is that you grab this very quickly, it will be gone before you can say TRICK OR TREAT….Wonderfully presented with numerous stills from the movie and a thorough set of notes which are a delight to read.