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THE FORGOTTEN – James Horner

September 24, 2004 Leave a comment Go to comments

theforgottenOriginal Review by Peter Simons

Having one of the year’s more interesting premises, The Forgotten tells the story of Telly Paretta (Julianne Moore), a mother who is told that her recently deceased son never even existed, and that she merely imagined nine years of her life with him. Unwilling to accept this shocking news and firmly believing that the truth is out there, Telly embarks on a personal quest for her lost child. Written by Gerald Di Pego, the film has a promising scenario, but critics derided it for making a few too many unwelcome plot turns, and eventually leaving the realms of the “intriguing” and becoming “ridiculous”. Nevertheless, the film performed rather well at the box office, taking over $60 million in its first six weeks.

The Forgotten is directed by Joseph Ruben, whose previous movies include Return to Paradise, The Good Son and Sleeping With The Enemy. Having worked with a diverse variety of composers in the past (respectively Mark Mancina, Elmer Bernstein and Jerry Goldsmith for the aforementioned titles), Ruben turned to James Horner for this latest film. Keen to avoid major Hollywood productions and focus instead on smaller scale dramas, Horner has of late also been abandoning his usual lavishly melodic style in favor of something more experimental. In The Forgotten, Horner obviously saw the challenge he was looking for.

If the movie’s story seems like it was taken from an episode from The X-Files, so does the music. Horner has created an almost entirely synthesized score with a solo piano possibly being the sole acoustic instrument. Continuing the trend he set last year with House of Sand and Fog and Beyond Borders, Horner relies on minimalistic piano ramblings and quite harsh electronic sound design – synthesizer programmers Randy Kerber and Ian Underwood have been given more work to do here than on any previous Horner score. While I personally fully applaud Horner for expanding his horizons in trying out new things, the results so far have been somewhat disappointing. Rather than finding a harmony between his usual orchestral style and these new electronic experiments, Horner seemingly prefers to set them against each other, creating clashing and surprisingly uninteresting contrasts.

The album opens with “An Unsettling Calm”, which presents Horner’s usual meandering solo piano and a sampled solo violin on a bed of soft synthesizer pads. The dreamy atmosphere is deliberately disturbed by metallic hits, which seem to hint at the film’s futuristic finale. The mood he establishes in this first track is somewhat similar to his score for To Gillian on her 37th Birthday. “Remember…” continues the nostalgic piano motif, making it sound like a slow motion version of Bicentennial Man’s opening cue, before percussive electronic sounds take over to create a slightly more aggressive atmosphere.

An acoustic and a synthesized piano form the basis of “In Memories Only, The Empty Place”, the album’s longest cue at nearly eight minutes. Horner is particularly known for depicting family life and nostalgia with high pitched piano meanderings; and he does it again on The Forgotten. “In Memories Only” contains the album’s most beautiful moments, although unfortunately the composer never establishes a recognizable theme which would actually enhance that X-Files mood. Mark Snow always seemed to have a beautiful melody just waiting around the corner, but Horner is never quite allowed to go there.

“Containment of a Darker Purpose” sounds like it was taken straight out of Beyond Borders with its harsh electronics, solo violin and crashing piano. Exactly why Horner was hired to write this kind of score remains a mystery. This type of sound design is what we would expect from people like Jeff Rona or Graeme Revell and, being far more at ease with synthesizer technology, they would surely have done a far better job of it. “Re-assembling Shattered Pieces” is the album’s most dramatic and arguably most interesting cue as the score’s main theme, unimpressive and hardy recognizable though it is, gets interwoven with the electronic percussive sounds much more coherently than elsewhere on the CD. For a brief moment the piano, the violin and the synth seem to be actually working together rather than against each other. Admittedly, any melody that exists in the first half of that track is ditched in the second half where the percussive loops dominate over a series of ascending string chords and synthesized brass crescendos.

“Children, The Unbroken Bond” and “End Credits” round off the album quite nicely with warm synthesized strings pads and, of course, the nostalgic piano ramblings. “Children, The Unbroken Bond” especially is the type of poignant cue we have come to love from Horner, and it is unfortunate that it isn’t given a real orchestral performance. This cue, like “An Unsettling Calm”, contains a sound sample of children playing, which quite beautifully enhances the nostalgic atmosphere Horner is going for.

Though it is easy to see this music working quite well within the context of the film, on album the lack of strong thematic material and the unsuccessful integration of electronic sound design make The Forgotten a shockingly boring listening experience.

Rating: **

Track Listing:

  • An Unsettling Calm (4:27)
  • Remember… (4:26)
  • In Memories Only, The Empty Place (7:52)
  • Containment of a Darker Purpose (7:51)
  • The Experiment on Innocence (4:15)
  • Confronting Forever (3:49)
  • Re-assembling Shattered Pieces (3:51)
  • Profound Emptiness… The Hangar (8:47)
  • Erasing The Truth (6:03)
  • Children, The Unbroken Bond (3:39)
  • End Credits (4:29)

Running Time: 59 minutes 29 seconds

Varèse Sarabande VSD-6619 (2004)

Music composed by James Horner. Orchestrations and synthesizer programming by James Horner, Randy Kerber and Ian Underwood. Recorded, mixed and edited by Simon Rhodes. Album produced by Simon Rhodes and James Horner.

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