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SHATTERED – Alan Silvestri

October 14, 2021 Leave a comment Go to comments


Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Shattered is a twisty-turny psychological thriller written and directed by Wolfgang Petersen, based on the popular novel ‘The Plastic Nightmare’ by Richard Neely. The film stars Tom Berenger as Dan Merrick, a successful architect who is involved in a major car accident with his wife Judith (Greta Scacchi). Judith survives relatively unharmed, but Dan suffers major injuries and brain trauma, including amnesia, and needs plastic surgery. As he recuperates at home afterwards, with the help of his friend Jeb (Corbin Bernsen) and Jeb’s wife Jenny (Joanne Whalley), Dan slowly starts to feel that things are not quite what they appear to be, and begins to make some inquiries into his own past. These inquiries eventually lead Dan to private detective Gus Klein (Bob Hoskins), whose explosive revelations change Dan’s life forever.

The score for Shattered was by Alan Silvestri, who was hired to write the music fairly late in the post-production process after the original score by Angelo Badalamenti was rejected by the studio. Having already scored films as varied as Soapdish, Dutch, and Ricochet in 1991, Shattered was a different sort of score as it allowed him the opportunity to emulate one of his great idols: Bernard Herrmann. In later years Silvestri would channel Herrmann in a number of scores, including Death Becomes Her in 1992 and What Lies Beneath in 2000, but Shattered was the first time Silvestri has the opportunity to go down that path, and the results are excellent, especially considering the short time he has to complete the project. What’s also fun about Shattered is that it also gave Silvestri a little opportunity – however briefly – to revisit the keyboard-heavy sound that dominated his work pre-Back to the Future; scores like Romancing the Stone, Cat’s Eye, The Delta Force, even his work on the TV series CHiPs. The blending of these two styles in Shattered gives it a very different tone from most Silvestri scores of the period, and I found it to be refreshing.

The score is built around a single recurring theme, which is presented for the first time in the “Opening Title”. The theme opens with light keyboard tones and electronic percussion, but slowly emerges into a wonderfully sultry melody carried by moodily romantic strings. It’s very much a product of its time – those glittery textures, sampled hi-hat cymbals, and synthetic drum pads are the epitome of the early 1990s – and that dated sound might put some people off, but I personally love it; it’s very much in the same musical wheelhouse as other slightly erotic thriller scores written around the same time – things like John Williams’s Presumed Innocent, Jerry Goldsmith’s Basic Instinct and Malice, among others. The theme is present in many cues thereafter, but Silvestri often changes up the arrangement and the tempo to keep it fresh.

In “Going Home” the main theme is bold and dramatic, a fully orchestral version laden with dramatic flourishes in the strings and underpinned by the shimmering electronic keyboard textures. Three action sequences take the theme into new places; both “Telegram Message” and “Driving Dan” surround the main theme with a series of eerie string textures, high pitched glassy electronics, and nervous ticks, before it all explodes into a fantastic rhythmic sequence for rich strings and pulsating percussive keyboard rhythms.

Later, the brilliant “The Chase” takes the rapid fire action even further by adding some bold orchestral touches that feel similar to the chase music from scores like Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Back to the Future; the merest hints of jazz in the phrasing is enough to make it sound markedly different, and allow it to stand out as a score highlight. The main theme continues to take center stage throughout the cue, but the relentless, staccato piano and keyboard writing is terrific, and the cymbal rings that begin each phrase are classic Silvestri touches.

The middle section of the score – much of which underscores scenes of Dan investigating his past and getting involved in all manner of undercover skullduggery – tends to embrace suspense and tension, and is the most Hitchcockian and Herrmannesque part of the score. Cues like “Dan Smacks Judith,” “The Body Revealed,” and “It’s Judith” are slow burns, built around a series of eerie sustains, strings layered against one another, with occasional dramatic stingers and moments of shrieking histrionics.

The conclusion of the score – and revelatory twist in the film’s finale – comes via “Klein’s Shot” and “Dan’s Memory Returns”. Silvestri underscores the surprise with one final flash of the pulsating action motif, a series of brooding piano chords offset by dark strings, and a massive orchestral crescendo that builds into a huge statement of the main theme. The shockingly unexpected end of the film, which I won’t spoil here on the off chance you don’t know it, caused a division among the responses given by critics, with some finding the whole thing too ridiculous to accept, while others found it inventive and clever. Thankfully, Silvestri doesn’t telegraph it with his music, but he certainly captures the amazement of it all. The capper is the five-minute “End Credits,” which offers an excellent extended performance of the main theme featuring an especially notable and florid piano part.

The album is rounded out by a source cue and a song. The source cue is “Hacienda,” which was written by Aussie composer Ashley Irwin, who went on to enjoy a successful career writing scores for a whole slew of ‘skinemax’ sexy thrillers in the mid-1990s, conducting and orchestrating scores for Clint Eastwood, and working as a music director for awards show; he is now also well known as the current president of the Society of Composers and Lyricists. It’s a fun, tropical groove with a prominent sultry melody for synth woodwinds. The song is the classic “Nights in White Satin” from 1967, written by Justin Hayward and performed by The Moody Blues; Hayward’s voice, the yearning of the lyrics, and the iconic Mellotron keyboard that features prominently throughout, remain iconic.

Although it’s a minor score in the bigger scheme of things, Shattered has always been one of my under-the-radar Alan Silvestri favorites. The main theme is memorable, and the action music is especially enjoyable, but it bears repeating that some people will find the tone, and the electronic arrangements, to be very dated, and if you once start down the path of suppressing giggles whenever you hear those percussion pads and boom-tick drums and cymbals, it might ruin the whole thing for you. It’s also worth noting that, once you remove the song and Ashley Irwin’s source cue, the score is only 24 minutes long, which means it is a prime candidate for an expansion from a specialty label.

Buy the Shattered soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Opening Title (2:06)
  • Going Home (1:06)
  • Telegram Message (1:35)
  • Driving Dan (3:09)
  • The Chase (1:55)
  • Dan Smacks Judith (1:22)
  • The Body is Revealed (2:12)
  • It’s Judith (1:47)
  • Klein’s Shot (2:23)
  • Dan’s Memory Returns (1:51)
  • Hacienda (written by Ashley Irwin) (2:50)
  • End Credits (5:00)
  • Nights in White Satin (written by Justin Hayward, performed by The Moody Blues) (7:24)

Running Time: 34 minutes 51 seconds

Milan 35609-2 (1991)

Music composed and conducted by Alan Silvestri. Orchestrations by Alan Silvestri and William Ross. Additional music by Ashley Irwin. Recorded and mixed by Dennis Sands. Edited by Bill Abbott. Album produced by Alan Silvestri.

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