"Hannibal has certainly cooked up a controversy. "Goody goody," say the distributors.
And even those giving Hannibal a roasting don't deny its stylistic merit.
Fresh from Gladiatorial triumph, director Ridley Scott and composer Hans Zimmer have once again formed a dream team of creative talent. Whatever you think of the movie, or even if you haven't, or don't intend to see it, don't dismiss the soundtrack.
Hannibal is not your average psychopath. A connoisseur of art and aesthetics, along with his peculiar epicurean culinary predilections, he is in his element in the cultural heritage of Florence.
Thus there is more beauty than brutality in the score. More of the serene intelligence of a debauched but brilliant mind than its sinister intent; more romantic decadence than depraved violence.
Just as he did with Viennese Waltzes in Gladiator, Zimmer once again takes a scalpel to classical sources, twisting and distorting them for ironic purpose. But Zimmer is no sonic-o-pathic butcher, instead of maiming he manages to sculpt something new, beautiful and captivating from Strauss's The Blue Danube in Gourmet Valse Tartare, as well as deploying an original recording of eccentric and virtuosic Canadian pianist Glenn Gould, performing Aria Da Capo from Bach's Goldberg Variations, for maximum effect.
Zimmer also tweaks a big, traditional orchestral sound to add a tinge of unease to pure and pretty melodies. The gilded accents of masterful trombonist Bruce Fowler (a regular orchestrator for Zimmer) contrast with a cello and contra-bass-heavy string section, the cellos sometimes playing in an extreme high register, weighty but edgy.
For the opera sequence, Zimmer called on Irish composer Patrick Cassidy to write an Aria to a libretto sourced from Dante (who else, in this context?). The magnificent Cor Meum, with bravura performances by Danielle De Niese and Bruno Lazzaretti the result.
Weaving in and out of the cues are backings of pure, angelic choir. Clarice's innocence and integrity offset against the calculating mind of a monster. When there is an absolute need for suspense, the Zimmer penchant for integrating synthesisers and strings comes to the fore, establishing a pure and heavy dread.
But most diabolical, in the best possible way, are the excerpts of Hannibal utterances. Unlike many releases that make a meal of mixing dialogue and ditties, this is compelling blend of thespian and compositional class. Hopkins's tone and inflexion is inimitable. Measured, cultured, chilling.
But even the most unpleasant implications are a delicious listening experience in Zimmer's flavoursome, musical context. Settle back with a generous serving of fava beans and a nice Chianti, and let your ears feed on this sonic delicacy."
Published March 22, 2001