It is tempting to think that even Hans Zimmer, a composer who has written music for cinema projects large and small -- mostly large -- for decades, would be intimidated by the responsibility of composing an original soundtrack score for Ron Howard's film adaptation of Dan Brown's pulp fiction blockbuster The Da Vinci Code. Apparently not. While the music here holds some of Zimmer's trademark dynamic and textural tropes, it is remarkably fresh and expertly nuanced. The high degree of melancholy in the first three sections -- "Dies Maercurii I Maritus," "L'Espirit des Gabriel," and "The Paschal Spiral" -- creates a remarkably brooding tension and a speculative sense of foreboding. The first of these, "Dies Mercurii I Maritus," with its piano and hovering stings, does give way to a large pastoral theme a little over halfway through, but even it is re-introduced by eerie, sparse strings (Hugh Marsh's solo violin playing throughout is his highest achievement yet in a career full of them) before they begin to pulse with suspense. Even here, Zimmer holds some of his cards in check, because this theme gives way to more complex shades, colors, and emotions that don't so much resolve as lead the listener in further. The cues on "Fructus Gravis" that assert themselves about a minute in and carry it out on a swirl of strings, soprano voices and piano, provide for one of those moments in film scoring where the entire range of emotion and ambivalence is revealed. The longer pieces, the aforementioned "Dies Mercurii," "Ad Arcana," "Daniel's 9th Cipher," and "Rose of Arimathea" carry within them those necessary elements not simply to color the screen narrative, but to underscore its meaning, its emotional transference, its sense of confusion, terror, and the impending revelation of a truth long buried. The use of faux Gregorian chant here is ingenious; it never feels contrived or simply layered in for authenticity. It is a genuine creative force and pushes the music into the nooks and crannies where dimension is what makes texture and pace come together in an instructive and creative whole. While this is to be expected in the larger cues, it's often in the incidental music a score falters, loses its place inside the bigger themes, yet Zimmer's control and vision holds firm and carries the listener on a journey that not only points toward the film it illustrates, but one of deep resonance that borders on the spiritual. No matter what aural side projects are created as a cash-in, this original score will stand on its own and should -- if there is any critical or commercial justice -- become a classic. One does wonder what happened to the planned collaboration with Armenian duduk master Djivan Gasparyan, who isn't present, but it's a small question in the end. Bravo.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek
|The Da Vinci Code, film score|