Home > Reviews > SIN NOMBRE – Marcelo Zarvos

SIN NOMBRE – Marcelo Zarvos

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

A thriller about illegal immigrants, Sin Nombre is directed by Cary Fukunaga and stars Paulina Gaitán, a teenager trying to cross the border from Honduras into Mexico and, eventually, the United States by stowing away on a train with her father and uncle. However, Sayra’s already difficult journey becomes deadly when she is targeted by members of a vicious local street gang as part of an initiation rite. The score for Sin Nombre is by Brazilian pianist and composer Marcelo Zarvos, who previously earned acclaim for his scores for The Door in the Floor, Hollywoodland and the TV movie Taking Chance.

As one might expect, much of Zarvos’s score is rooted in the musical conventions of South and Central America, with guitars, accordions, ethnic woodwinds and various shakers accompanied by a small string orchestra. The music is big on rhythm, less concerned with melody, but evokes a strong flavor of the film’s geographical location and its people. Cues such as “The Journey”, “Veracruz”, “Sin Nombre”, “Sierra Blanca”, “Prayer” and “Guatemala Crossing” offer a glimpse into the modern musical styles of the region, and range from traditional sounds to contemporary fusion pieces which mix old and new.

However, apart from these time-honored sounds, Zarvos impresses with some of this orchestral textures. He gives Sayra a morosely romantic theme for guitar and soft woodwinds in her eponymous cue, “Sayra”. Later, he plays up the danger of Sayra’s situation with low, moody, slightly more conventional orchestral interludes; cues such as “Train Arrival”, “Ride Into the Storm” and “She is Gone” are dark and forbidding, with low brass and turgid string themes presenting an ominous atmosphere. There are also a few moments of unexpectedly excellent dissonance, with “Daydreaming”, “The Attack” and parts of “Orizaba Chase”, “El Sol” and “Migra” standing out for their almost Matrix-esque chaotic collisions of overlapping brass chords, nervous percussion writing and vivid compositional style.

This is a score which thrives on the unexpected; a low-budget independent drama such as this would not be expected to contain such challenging orchestral textures or such an excellent fusion of impressionistic scoring ideas with lush Latino rhythms, and Zarvos should be commended for taking the road less travelled. As such, Sin Nombre comes recommended for those with an ear for the unusual.

Rating: ***½

Track Listing:

  • The Journey (2:58)
  • Train Arrival (1:40)
  • Veracruz (1:24)
  • Daydreaming (1:11)
  • Ride Into the Storm (3:05)
  • The Attack (2:22)
  • Sin Nombre (2:20)
  • Tierra Blanca (1:26)
  • Orizaba Chase (3:05)
  • Prayer (1:18)
  • El Sol (2:57)
  • Sayra (1:23)
  • Guatemala Crossing (2:02)
  • The Tower (1:35)
  • Rio Grande (5:02)
  • She is Gone (2:23)
  • Migra (4:24)
  • Sayra in the Church (1:01)
  • Sin Nombre Reprise (2:14)

Running Time: 43 minutes 50 seconds

Lakeshore Records LKS-34072 (2009)

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