Home > Reviews > ISLAND OF LOST SOULS (DE FORTABTE SJÆLES Ø) – Jane Antonia Cornish


February 9, 2007 Leave a comment Go to comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

In such a crowded market as the today’s international film music world, it’s difficult to make a splash. Hundreds of films are released each year, many of which never make any kind of box office impact or draw any kind of press, positive or negative. The vast majority of these undiscovered films have scores by jobbing composers, looking to make a name for themselves, looking to be attached to that one, golden movie which can launch a career. One such film is the Danish supernatural fantasy-adventure “De Fortabte Sjæles Ø”, better known internationally as Island of Lost Souls, which could very well be the break-out score for the comparatively little known English composer Jane Antonia Cornish.

London-born Cornish was a violin prodigy as a child, before switching to composing. After being a finalist in the BBC Young Composer of the Year competition in 1993, she attended the Royal College of Music, and upon graduation re-located to Los Angeles to attempt break into the film music business. Since then, she has worked an orchestrator on a couple of Hollywood projects (Big Fish for Danny Elfman, The Girl Next Door for Paul Haslinger, Earthsea for Jeff Rona), but ironically the majority of her work has been back across the Atlantic – she won a BAFTA award for her score for the children’s family adventure Five Children and It in 2005, and has now traveled to Denmark for this score. And, if the quality of this score is anything to go by, this is just the first step on a long and successful road.

To call Island of Lost Souls a ‘big’ score would be an understatement. It’s huge. Enormous. Gigantic. Monumental. Colossal. Stick any of those adjectives into a thesaurus, take your pick, and you’re starting to come close to the size and scale this tremendous work. It’s a score which overflows with sweeping action-adventure themes, thunderous battle music, orchestral crescendos and choral climaxes. It has nine-minute action cues offset by lyrical themes of romantic tenderness. And all this from a 32-year-old woman with just three feature scores to her name, including this one.

The main theme, as heard in the opening “Island of Lost Souls”, is a grand and powerful brass theme in the most epic fantasy tradition, and forms the cornerstone of the film’s thematic material. It features in a dramatic action setting in the frantic “Escape Through the Forest”, a bold and exciting action cue which put the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra through its paces with rampant brass writing, skittery woodwinds and throbbing percussion, and in fragments in several other tracks. The unyielding style continues into “Shadows”, before emerging triumphantly into the heroic “Richard to the Rescue”, which features an exultant fanfare motif that somehow puts me in mind of Laurence Rosenthal’s Clash of the Titans.

The choral writing is bold and dramatic, adding a sense of impending doom to “Old Enemies”, a notion of other-worldly spectral beauty to “Shadows”, and a beguiling icy coldness to “The Cave”. For Cornish to have such an impressive command of both instruments and voices at such an early stage in her career is impressive indeed.

At times, Cornish’s action music resembles David Arnold’s work on Independence Day and Godzilla; elsewhere, it has the throaty brass rasps that one might associate more with Elliot Goldenthal. “Lulu’s Theme”, which appears in truncated snippets in other cues, is the warm, tender backbone of the score, and has the definite feeling of the most lyrical parts of John Williams’ The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi – ‘Han Solo and the Princess’, or ‘Luke & Leia’ perhaps. These comparisons should not be taken as implying that Cornish has in any way ‘ripped off’ these other great scores – instead, they are more indicators of the stylistics Cornish employs.

The nine-minute “Final Battle” is a monumental tour-de-force of exhilarating forward motion and tremendous creativity, pitting thunderous performances the main theme against a bed of swirling strings, cooing choirs and dense horn clusters. As it progresses, the intensity increases to apocalyptic proportions, and the sense of dread becomes almost palpable. Eventually, finally, the conclusive “Soul Bridge and End Titles” releases all the tension with the grandest and most impressive performance of the main theme yet to bring the score to a rousing close. It’s remarkable, breathless stuff.

If one was to make one small criticism of the score, it would be to say that is perhaps a little too relentless. The power and cacophony never lets up for the entire CD running time, which is fine if, like me, you like this kind of thing, but I can see how others would simply be overwhelmed by it all. This small issue aside, I can honestly say that I can think of nothing else negative to say about Island of Lost Souls. It’s density, inventiveness, and overflowing ebullience makes every single note a joy to experience. If I sound like I’m gushing over this score, I apologize, but when I hear music as good as this from a composer at the beginning of their careers, I can’t help but be enthusiastic. If you like your film music big, bold and dominant, then Island of Lost Souls will be the score for you. I don’t think I would be overstating things if I said that, with this score, Jane Antonia Cornish had made the most impressive mainstream debut of any composer since David Arnold and Stargate back in 1994. And we all know what happened to him…

Rating: *****

Track Listing:

  • Supergirl (performed by Kashmir) (3:56)
  • Slay the Emperor (performed by Kashmir) (4:46)
  • Box Office Band (performed by The Alpine) (3:09)
  • Glasshouse (performed by Pernille Vallentin) (3:53)
  • Island of Lost Souls (1:58)
  • Death of Linea (1:08)
  • Escape Through the Forest (2:59)
  • Lulu’s Theme (1:19)
  • Old Enemies (3:46)
  • Shadows (2:45)
  • Richard to the Rescue (2:40)
  • The Cave (2:41)
  • Monk’s Island (1:09)
  • Final Battle (9:36)
  • Soul Bridge and End Titles (8:02)

Running Time: 53 minutes 03 seconds

Milan Music France 399102-2 (2007)

Music composed by Jane Antonia Cornish. Performed by The Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus Orchestrations by Jane Antonia Cornish. Album produced by Jane Antonia Cornish.

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