Film scores

Soundtrack review: Hannibal (Hans Zimmer – 2001)

hannibal-soundtrack-cover

“Hannibal” is a 2001 American crime thriller film directed by Ridley Scott, adapted from the novel of the same name by Thomas Harris. It is the sequel to the 1991 Academy Award–winning film The Silence of the Lambs in which Anthony Hopkins returns to his role as the iconic serial killer, Hannibal Lecter. Julianne Moore co-stars, in the role first held by Jodie Foster, as the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Clarice Starling.

I’ve often said in my reviews how much I am drawn to darkness in film music, be in cold and metallic or warm and rich, silk like as it is in “Hannibal”. This is one of Hans’ most classical sounding compositions as he takes the creepy elegance of the main character and puts it into music. The music is both seductive and addictive and the Anthony Hopkins voiceover fits perfectly. “Hello Clarice” feels richer with his words and make for a fine introduction into this score.

Hans controls the music just like Hannibal Lecter controls his emotions; the motifs are subdued but intense, the music is quiet but frightening. The purely classical inserts are the only moments when the light gets through in this score; they are the tiny windows at the top of the basement wall. And yet I suffer a bit of a Stockholm syndrome with this score as I slowly get very attached to my captor and never want to leave his sight.

The constant dance between horror and romance from the movie is transcribed in the music where the line between the two is even more blurred; almost every cue has both a creepy, bone chilling part and a warm romantic one. There are moment when romance wins, like in the beautiful and almost elegiac “Virtue”, as elegant as any cue Hans Zimmer has ever written. It’s a delight (no pun intended) to listen to this and feel this dark and comfortable mist take me over;  it’s the perfect mix of classical and modern, it’s a quiet cue that tells me a lot with very little.

Then there’s the most haunting and spectacular piece of them all “Let my home be my gallows”. The mood and tone of the cue isn’t different from what the rest of the score offers but alongside the smooth dark motifs and the choral sections that will later be developed in “The da Vinci code” this cue has a tiny separate voice…a trembling voice…a sighing and distorted choir that I can hear every now and then that haunts me and makes me want to go down to that basement and save it. It’s the most desperate and innocent musical prayer and nothing Hans subsequently did with the use of the choir, mostly in the Robert Langdon trilogy came close to the pain and despair in this one. Then Anthony Hopkins reads about the Avarice and Dante and history and the hanging of Judas and I could just listen to this terrifying story forever. “Let my home be my gallows” is hard to sit through if violent and scary music affects you. We know Hans can write horror with the best of them as “The ring” scores show us and this is one more intense brush with the genre.

My favorite moment from “Hannibal” is “To every captured soul” because it sounds as if it was written and recorded for my favorite score of all time “The thin red line”. Hans recaptures the reflective and peaceful mood of that score with a cue that shows me again the link between Hans and Ennio Morricone as sections from this cue have the beauty and innocent musings that send me back to “Once upon a time in America”.

“Hannibal” is one of the most classically influenced Hans Zimmer compositions and also one of his deepest. Haunting, chilling and gripping it’s the darker prequel to the aforementioned “Da Vinci code” trilogy, complete with the choirs and violin solos and in the same time a beautiful score that should not be missed. It’s an album that will also satisfy the usual Zimmer critics who frown at his use of electronics. This one is elegant, silky and terrifying in the same time. For me it’s one of those scores I go to when I need to find sanctuary in a dark place where nobody will find me. In

Cue rating:  97/ 100

Total minutes of excellence: 43 / 54

Album excellence: 80%

Highlights:

Dear Clarice

“Aria da capo” from Goldberg Variations – J. S. Bach

The Capponi Library

Avarice

For A Small Stipend

“Firenze Di Notte” – Martin Tillman and Mel Wesson

Virtue

Let My Home Be My Gallows

The Burning Heart

To Every Captive Soul

 

About the author

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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