Released in September 2013, STALINGRAD, is the first Russian movie to produced totally in 3D for the Imax cinema. Directed by Fedor Bondachuk the movie was selected to represent Russia in the best foreign language film category at the 86th Academy Awards, but it failed to get a nomination from the Academy. The script for the movie by Ilya Tikin was written using the diaries of actual combatants from the Second World War battle, the writer combining information from these with archival material from museums that included recorded accounts and written material of the bloody conflicts participants. The main plot of the film is a love story which is set against the destructive backdrop of the battle. In 1942 German troops occupied the bank of the Volga river and pushed the Soviet forces back across the river, the Russians attempted to launch a counter offensive but this was unsuccessful, a handful of Russian soldiers manage to hang on to a position on the bank and take refuge in a house, here they find and befriend a girl, the Germans had occupied her home and she was caught between the two armies. The Russians soon come into contact with the Germans and fighting begins, but the commander of the Germans falls in love with the girl. The music for this sprawling and impressive war epic is the work of American born composer Angelo Badalamenti
, who has over the years notched up some impressive credits to his name, his simple but almost dream like theme for TWINS PEAKS still resonates in my head at times and his score for A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT is I would say amongst his best works for cinema, as are his efforts on the lack lustre re-make of THE WICKER MAN, in fact the composers music I would say was that particular movies only saving grace. I also must mention his enchanting and beguiling music for THE CITY OF LOST CHILDREN, his music caressing and delicately enhancing the movie. STALINGRAD, is in my opinion the composers best score to date, it is an inspired and powerful work, and to be honest if I had not been told that it was Badalamenti before listening to it, I would have probably thought it was the work of one of the up and coming Spanish composers or even by Morricone. The composer makes effective use of a full symphony orchestra which includes a large string section and dominant sounding brass, that are driven and underlined by booming and thunderous percussion. The score was recorded in Moscow by an 80 piece orchestra and then mixed in New York. The score although from a war movie also has its fair share of tender moments and these are tinged with melancholy and have about them a fragility and sadness that manifests it self with the cues that underscore the scenes with the girl and also the scenes of destruction and senseless chaos.
Track number 5, KATYA’S THEME is a prime example of this style of scoring, the composer utilizing plaintive and almost cautious sounding woodwind that is supported by subtle strings to create an atmosphere that is filled with sadness and yet does give us a glimmer of hope at times. Track 6, MEN OF FIRE, shows us Badalamenti in martial mode, thundering timpani act as a background to a five note motif performed by brass and underlined by strident sounding strings, conjuring up an atmosphere of determination and heroism. This is an entertaining score a potent and invigorating work that I am certain will be in many a CD player in the coming weeks and months. The opening track on the compact disc is THE STALINGRAD THEME, which features the haunting soprano voice of Anna Netrebko, who is supported by an adagio like composition for strings that underline her operatic and soaring vocalisation. Track number 2, is STALINGRAD OVERTURE (UNIVERSAL THEME), This is performed in the main by a luscious sounding string section, which radiate emotion and simple ooze compassion and romantic melancholy, punctuated briefly by a fleeting piano solo, the strings then rise again and fully explore the composers glorious theme. Track number 3, DESPERATE SEARCH FOR MASHA is a more urgent and forceful sounding composition, strings are laced by rasping and almost growling brass with rumbling percussive elements being added to heighten tension and realise a sense of danger. Track number 4, KAHN’S THEME, is for me one of the best cues on the score, it is almost majestic in its overall sound, the opening being more like a fanfare or a musical announcement, with strings and brass once again combining punctuated by percussion, this soon melts away and a solo trumpet becomes centre stage of proceedings, but this too soon evaporates and urgent brass’s and underlining strings that tremble maintain a mood that is uncertain and at the same time commanding. Badalamenti has created a powerhouse of a score and also along the way has also written some of the most haunting and gracious tone poems, which are performed beautifuly by woodwind, cello and strings and will live in the listeners mind for a long while. the soundtrack also features a vocal for the end titles performed by Russian pop star Zemfira. this is a sweeping and luxurious sounding work,a classic in the making. Due for release on Movie score Media/Kronos, who amaze me with their wonderful catlogue. Recommended…
Read other recent reviews by John Mansell: Addio, Fratello Crudele
, The Dark Side of Light