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Soundtrack review: Ripley’s game (Ennio Morricone – 2002)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Ripley’s game (Ennio Morricone – 2002)


“Ripley’s Game” is a 2002 thriller film directed by Liliana Cavani. It is adapted from the 1974 novel of the same name, the third in Patricia Highsmith’s “Ripliad”, a series of books chronicling the murderous adventures of con artist Tom Ripley. John Malkovich stars as Ripley, opposite Dougray Scott and Ray Winstone. I remember I liked “The talented Mr. Ripley” and was curious to see more of the character. The movie was also released in a period where I was fascinated with the way Malkovich plays evil characters and it didn’t disappoint. The score was written by Ennio Morricone and Kronos Records releases it in 2016.

I remember the pace of the movie well. There was also urgency in Ripley’s movements, in his plans, he often planned but even more often reacted on the spot and the maestro chose to use the harpsichord to mirror this permanent agitation and awareness of the character. Somehow the combination of this instrument and the horns make me think of steps constantly moving on a pavement. Ennio often used the harpsichord in his thriller scores to suggest tension and a complex web of intrigue and emotions. I recognize his sound from the first cue “In concerto” and there’s no way this opening piece could have been written by anyone else.

The musical world of Ennio Morricone is a very special one. No matter the story, no matter the variations in sound, there’s always a romantic touch to his music. That’s always the constant point in his scores and that’s always something I look forward to. Even in the misty and deceiving world of “Ripley’s game” there are moments of tenderness and innocence that just warm my heart. They are rare but always make an impression. Just listen to the beautiful and melancholic “Berlino una sera”; this time the harpsichord expresses the irregular heartbeats of someone who feels.

“Primo treno” is a perfect example of simple and brilliantly effective chase music. The composer doesn’t use a lot of instruments and the rhythm is quite repetitive but that scene doesn’t need more. Moments like these are visceral and intuitive and there’s rarely time to think. The music mirrors that and brings the tension to a new level.

The maestro also experiments with wooden instruments and sounds in cues like “Collage per Ripley” or “Il Cinismo di Ripley”. I could imagine that the clanking motif is actually Ripley’s ice cold decision making and expresses his lack of interest for human life. it’s a heart beating regularly and without hesitation in contradiction to what the harpsichord was showing us in “Berlino una sera”.

What works best in “Ripley’s game” is the palpable tension. The score is mostly cold doesn’t announce a happy end. The music is atmospheric and the way it flows makes it hard to separate cues or listen to it other than in the order it appears on the album. I love the nostalgia it brings me for the sound of the 70s, for the jazz and the romance of those years. I love how each cue hides something to relate to and how every motif has meaning. This one is not only for Morricone fans; lovers of beautiful music will enjoy it as well.

Cue rating: 91 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 19 / 47

Album excellence: 42%


In Concerto


Primo Treno

Berlino Una Sera

Collage Per Ripley

Un Regalo

In Registrazione

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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