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Soundtrack review: Rain man (Hans Zimmer, 1988)

Film scores Hans Zimmer

Soundtrack review: Rain man (Hans Zimmer, 1988)

Each of us has some unmistakable imprints from his or her childhood days. Be it a taste that sends you back in an instant to your grandparent’s house, the smell of a plant that grew in your garden back then or the wrapping of your favorite brad of ice cream, the reaction is the same: it’s a trigger that lets flow a wave of emotions that takes you over and drops you in the middle of those perfect past times.
Among my childhood nostalgia triggers, I also had a cue. It wasn’t even a full track…just part of one that kept coming back to my mind, but the trouble was I couldn’t place it. I knew it was from sometime far away, but I couldn’t identify the score. The notes were buried deep inside me and they blended with the thousands of other tracks I heard since then…for a while I was sure the piece I was searching came from “The last samurai”. All I could identify was a tender Japanese themed cue, a flute effect, a dream. But it wasn’t from there. It was close, but what I heard in Last Samurai was a newer, more refined version, where the Japanese influences were even greater. The piece I was searching for was rawer, more synth oriented, it was a lullaby… So now that I knew it had to be Hans Zimmer, I went further back to his first Japanese inspired score, Black rain. I found some traces there, they were close, but still, not quite the same cue…
…and then I happened to listen to Rain Man. Strange, because it was just like the scene in the movie where Tom Cruise realizes that he remembered Dustin Hoffman from when he was a child; he has memories with his brother: I found my trigger…it was “Putting Ray to bed”, and the theme comes back a few more times throughout the score. It’s at the end of “Traffic accident and aftermath”, bits of it are in “Train station goodbye” or in “End credits”. It’s perfection.  It’s Hans’ first 6 star cue; it’s the shape of things to come from him, it’s where the shining appeared. Memories flood me, of the times I first heard this score, of the times I saw the movie. Now that the pathway is opened, the main theme plays, one of the most everlasting synthesizer cues ever composed, a landmark of the 1980s.     
The “Rain man” score is a masterpiece on so many levels…For me personally, the nostalgia level is the highest. From a musical point of view, this is it: the beginning, the seed of everything Hans Zimmer is now; the end of electronic 80s and the stepping stone to the awesome, unrivaled 90s action Hans Zimmer. Moreover, like I said, here are the sows that would eventually grow into one of the best movie scores ever, The Last Samurai.
When I listen to “Rain man”, I travel back in time. I go straight to my childhood and spend a wonderful time there in a vacation. Every key press or note that Hans Zimmer plays is another dear speck of dust from my long summer days as a kid. “Smoke alarm”, “Pancakes” and “My main man” are synthesizer wonders; the entire score is touching, tender, timeless and sweet like the memory of the first day in school or the first summer sunset that caught you by surprise while you were still playing outside with your best friend when you were 10.
The music works so well because Hans Zimmer didn’t write it to reflect the world outside. He wrote it for the world inside. It’s the soundtrack of the imaginary world we had when we were kids, and even if it’s a world we might be feeling lost in sometime, we still want to visit it as often as we can…
My ratings:
Cue rating: 88 / 100
Total minutes of excellence: 33 / 35
Album excellence: 94%
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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