I think it’s about time for another soundtrack review and this is one of my favourites, Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992). Francis Ford Coppola’s interpretation of the famous gothic novel has become a cult classic. While the film might not be high on some people’s list, it became firmly lodged in my impressionable teenage heart and I’ve been a fan ever since. By using only analogue effects to create the aesthetic of an old-school horror film, Coppola went further to imbibe his project with authenticity by enlisting Polish composer Wojciech Kilar to score the film. OK so he’s not Transylvanian, but at least he chose from the European gene pool.
A very well known and regarded composer in his home-land, scoring Coppola’s Dracula shot Kilar into the Western mainstream and he went on to score many big Hollywood films including Death and the Maiden (1994), The Portrait of a Lady (1996), The Truman Show (1998) The Ninth Gate (1999), The Pianist (2002) and We Own the Night (2007).
But for now, we’ll stick to Dracula. I think this film score has gone down as truly one of the greatest and most referenced bodies of film music. Used in almost every thriller and horror trailer since the early nineties, Kilar’s score was epic in every sense of the word and captured the imaginations of the movie loving crowd and the marketeers alike.
This soundtrack went beyond the typical Hollywood film music expectations, it crossed over into Henry Mancini (Breakfast at Tiffany’s) John Barry (Midnight Cowboy) and Bernard Herrmann (Psycho) territory to became part of the musical vernacular for anyone with even the tiniest romantic bone in their bodies. This score oozes Gothic charm and an indelible eastern European melancholy.
Every single track is poetic and provides the kind of intensity essential for a story like this. Kilar’s compositional experience is evident in the drama and tone of each piece. Listening to the rhythms and orchestration of the score reminds me a little of Stravinsky and Berlioz. These guys seem to have a similar penchant for jolting the listener to and fro with percussive explosions and theatrical, dance-like structures.
The use of both male and female vocals is powerful and used to alarming effect and the love theme (Love Remembered and Mina/Dracula) could possibly be one of the sweetest most heartbreaking melodies ever written. But then, I do get sentimental over this score. Kilar’s gift for creating emotional tension and climax is tremendous and he proves it again and again in both the heavier, more dramatic tracks and also with the more wistful, melancholic pieces.
If you don’t already own Bram Stoker’s Dracula Soundtrack, buy it immediately. Don’t forget to listen out for the awesome end track by the inimitable-crazy-eyed Annie Lennox, Love Song for a Vampire. It’s a pop rendition of the films’ theme tune.