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THE RETURN – Dario Marianelli

November 10, 2006 Leave a comment Go to comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Following his Oscar nomination for Pride & Prejudice last year, and his subsequent arrival in the ‘Hollywood Studio System’ with V for Vendetta, it was sort of inevitable that, before long, Dario Marianelli would turn up scoring a studio horror flick. Every composer does at least one (although some spend their entire careers doing nothing else!) It’s almost a rite of passage, something you have to do to earn your spurs, and be accepted as a reputable and reliable figure in the cogs that make up the system, which establishes you as one of the great fraternity from whose ranks most Hollywood movie scores are written. Dario Marianelli’s flick, it turns out, is The Return.

Directed by British filmmaker Asif Kapadia (who previously worked with Marianelli on The Warrior in 2001), The Return stars Sarah Michelle Gellar as Joanna Mills, a businesswoman travelling through rural Midwestern America, who has been having bizarre, startling dreams of a murder committed 15 years previously since she was a child. Needing to put her life back in order, and needing to distance herself from her father (Sam Shepard) and obsessed ex-boyfriend (Adam Scott), she finds herself drawn to the murder victim’s hometown – where she discovers a number of alarming things about the victim, and herself…

In many ways, The Return is a conventional, efficient suspense/horror score which establishes itself as an effective tool at unnerving its audience, but really has very little new or original to say, despite being performed by esteemed members of the Slovak National Symphony Orchestra and being recorded in Bratislava. Marianelli’s main theme, heard in “The Girl With Two Souls” owes a lot to Christopher Young, especially scores like Copycat, with its pseudo-soothing piano line, mock-romantic string wash, but slight sense of mystery and foreboding. The Chris Young influence can be heard throughout the rest of the score, which in itself is never a bad thing considering that Young is so good at this kind of writing. The moody, emotional piano and string combo in “Annie Dies” is worth mentioning as a melodic highlight.

Marianelli creates a spooky atmosphere in “The Red Bar”, and shows a harsher, scarier side to his writing through cues such as the “A Close Shave”, “Griff’s Garage” and the actually quite chilling “The Other Woman”, which uses slashing strings and unexpected stingers to deliver its frights. “Cornered” is the closest the score gets to having an action cue, and briefly contains a sequence of thumping, low-end pianos to drive the motion along. On the other side of the coin, the lighter cues include the soothing, lullaby-like “Collision”, which makes use of soft vocal effects, the contemporary-sounding “Memory Lane”, which works an acoustic guitar into the mix, and the soft and gentle pair “Terry Warms Up” and “What Really Happened”, which represent the score at its most tender and romantic.

The whole thing is capped off by Patsy Cline’s swooning 1963 country ballad “Sweet Dreams”, which plays constantly through the film in a way which is supposed to be ironically chilling: like a calling card for the supernatural and terrifying elements of the film, juxtaposing Cline’s wholesome vocal delivery with scenes of malice and fright. It’s a conceit which people like David Lynch often uses, but unless you’ve seen the film its inclusion on the album does little more than delay the start of the score.

In a way scores like The Return are the most difficult to review, purely because they are so middle-of-the-road. There’s nothing wonderful about it, but in no way is it terrible. It’s nothing more than a decent, workmanlike suspense-horror-thriller score, which does exactly what’s it’s supposed to do, pushes all the right scary buttons, creates a genuine oppressive atmosphere, but balances it out with more introspective moments of tenderness as well. I’m sure that, in the bigger scheme of Dario Marianelli’s career, The Return will be quickly forgotten, but I can certainly think of worse ways to spend 34 minutes of your life than listening to this CD.

Rating: ***

Track Listing:

  • Sweet Dreams (written by Don Gibson, performed by Patsy Cline) (2:38)
  • The Girl With Two Souls (3:48)
  • Collision (2:11)
  • Present and Past (1:04)
  • The Red Bar (2:14)
  • Memory Lane (1:18)
  • Terry Warms Up (2:22)
  • A Close Shave (1:48)
  • Driving to La Salle (1:45)
  • The Other Woman (1:29)
  • Griff’s Garage (1:13)
  • Old Things (1:34)
  • Cornered (2:41)
  • Annie Dies (2:43)
  • What Really Happened (2:13)
  • Sea Horses (3:50)

Running Time: 34 minutes 59 seconds

Lakeshore Records LKS-33888 (2006)

Music composed and conducted by Dario Marianelli. Performed by The Slovak National Symphony Orchestra. Orchestrations by Dario Marianelli and Benjamin Wallfisch. Recorded and mixed by Peter Fuchs. Edited by James Bellamy. Album produced by Dario Marianelli.

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