Rachel Portman,
Hart's War
(Universal Classics, 2002)

Rachel Portman is an exceptional composer and her scores have made a number of movies come alive, including such favourites as Chocolat, Cider House Rules, Emma, and The Legend of Bagger Vance. Rachel's compositions add the depth and nuance that lead the viewer/listener to introspection and consideration of the situation unfolding on the screen before them.

When it came to this soundtrack, I was severely torn. I wanted to watch the movie before doing the review, but as of yet, still haven't managed to catch it. I want to know if the drama is as tense in places as the music is -- the well-placed notes bring about a sense of foreshadowing and an intensity that must surely be epic on the screen. One of these days, I'm certain I will have the opportunity to enjoy the soundtrack and film as one.

This score is much like I envision Bruce Willis as an actor -- it is all male. Its moods and textures all have a decidedly masculine feel to them, you cannot help but notice the score and revel in the different outlooks and dispositions it allows you to experience. From the deepest, darkest notes to the highest feathery soft ones, you are caught up in an exquisite journey. As the music unfolds around you, leading you closer and closer to the plot's climax, its path shadowed and twisted, haunted and dogged by danger for every step of the way.

According to the liner notes by director Gilbert Holbit, "Hart's War is not a war story. At least not in the long tradition of what constitutes a movie war story -- Hart's War is fundamentally about captured American solders finding grace, dignity and honor in the face of extremely difficult and deadly circumstances in a stark and hostile environment in 1944-45 Nazi Germany."

I personally found the music to echo this, without the film to go by and just listening to this score, it "feels" like more of a man against man, than man against technology. There are no ear-splitting bombings, nor other such expected savagery. The music is very deep, fraught with peril, every so often bursting forth to find the sunshine for a moment before the darkness overtakes it once again.

This is perhaps one of the most moving scores I have ever listened to. Much can be found by careful listening, if you can avoid the lure to delve within and be caught up in some introspection. I just hope that the movie lives up to the composer's genius!

- Rambles
written by Naomi de Bruyn
published 29 March 2003

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