ENEMY AT THE GATES: SOUNDTRACK
Whether it is for the family fare of Bicentennial Man, the
ultimate blockbuster Titanic, the children’s fable The
Grinch, or this intense war drama, James Horner’s scores
carry an instantly recognisable imprimatur. The lush, lyrical
sound that he educes from an orchestra is probably unmatched in
Hollywood, and while he has strayed in recent times to excessive
repetition—both between and within scores—Horner also
has an uncanny knack of tweaking his technique to serve any genre.
A historical wartime scenario is the most powerful brief Horner
has tackled for sometime, though scores such as Braveheart and
Courage Under Fire are among his most admired work. It’s
intriguing to note that it’s been a mere six years since
Braveheart, and there have been some 24 Horner soundtracks in the
meantime, with four more due besides this one in the next twelve
You have to admire his prolificacy if not a studio system that
spawns comprises and inconsistency even from so great a talent.
It doesn’t sound like there were too many compromises here
though. Russia-at-war is such a rich terrain for composers—a
fierce landscape and a fiercer national pride. The 1812 bout with
Napoleon did not for mine inspire Tchaikovsky’s best work,
but I’ll permit, perhaps, his most passionate.
No canons here. The passion in Horner’s superb soundtrack is
channelled into tension. Of course there’s the signature
Horner menace-motiff and the expected romantic
theme. As always the latter is memorable and built on
simple intervals—in this instance oscillating major thirds.
While it doesn’t grab me as one of Horner’s finest, he
uses is it as a link to a far more detailed and emotionally
complex score than, say, The Perfect Storm.
Possibly it has been a help that it hasn’t been contrived
for a song spin-off, which seems to have been obligatory for
every Horner soundtrack since Titanic. And never anywhere near as
successfully, either commercially or artistically.
This is a purely orchestral work, true to the harrowing milieu of
the siege of Stalingrad and cannily overlapping militaristic
brass and marching phrases, dramatic choral arrangements and
intimate string passages that vibrate with the intensity of human
desperation. The individual tales of heroism and tragedy that are
microcosms of the larger absurdity of war.
A layered work that rewards multiple listening, this soundtrack
marks a welcome return to top form by one of film scoring’s
Published July 19, 2001
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TITLE: Enemy At The Gates
ID: SK 89522
COMPOSER/CONDUCTOR: James Horner
ALBUM PRODUCER: Simon Rhodes and James Horner
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