VALKYRIE: ORIGINAL SCORE

 
 

THE STORY SO FAR:

When on July 20, 1944, a bomb—boldly placed inside Hitler’s headquarters by Colonel Count Claus von Stauffenberg— exploded without killing the Führer, the subsequent coup d’état against the Third Reich collapsed. The conspirators were summarily shot or condemned in show trials and sadistically hanged. Now, you get to hear John Ottman’s sure to be Oscar nominated original score.

 

 

THE CRITICISM

Valkyrie comes at a time when World War II dramas are curiously common in mainstream cinema, and this film, like its contemporary counterparts, has once again hit the mark in its impressively realistic production values. The music for such films also presents composers with generally the same problems, usually forcing them to balance melodramatic considerations with a need for stylistic restraint. Along again for the journey with Singer for this venture is John Ottman, who serves as both composer and editor.

Ottman made a handful of stylistic choices in his foundations for the score that are dubious in their application to the subject matter. The most blatant of these choices is the substantial use of electronic accompaniment to a partial orchestra in an effort to emphasize the textural landscape of the work in its conversational and other less active scenes. Also of note is the sparse employment of motifs in a score with such scope of sacrifice.

 

TRACK LIST

 

1. They’ll Remember You – Ottman, John
2. Operation Valkyrie
3. What’s This Really All About?
4. Bunker Bust
5. March 13 Attempt
6. Midnight Waltz – Ottman, John
7. A Place to Change
8. Seconds Lost
9. Getting the Signature
10. Officer’s Club (Song: Für eine Nacht Voller Seligkeit) – Kreuder, Peter
11. The Way It Should Go
12. If I Were That Man / To The Berghof
13. I’m Sorry
14. Important Call
15. No More Indecision
16. Olbricht Gives The Order
17. Operation Terminated
18. Long Live Sacred Germany

 

Listening to Valkyrie is like looking at the book shelves of a master carpenter who only reads crappy novels. The bookends are stunning, but everything in between is indescribably disappointing. I appreciate that this analogy is somewhat odd, so let me explain. The first and last tracks on the album – “They’ll Remember You” and “Long Live Sacred Germany” – are simply outstanding, whereas everything in between is little more than bland, uninspired filler. “They’ll Remember You” could very well the greatest single cue John Ottman has ever written; it’s an emotional, poignant string elegy that gradually emerges into a graceful, moving choral piece sung in German by a cut-glass female soprano and a noble-sounding male voice choir, with lyrics that come from a poem by playwright Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. This magnificent opening cue sets up Valkyrie to be a masterpiece: could this finally be the score where Ottman shows his true colors, and delivers the goods? One can only imagine the disappointment I felt as I sat through the next 53 minutes of the “underscore proper”.

Given that the film is essentially an espionage action/thriller, there are a fair few action cues dotted around the score, and some of them are quite exciting in their own way. “Operation Valkyrie”, “The Way It Should Go” and “Olbricht Gives the Order” bluster along to pounding war drums and churning, rumbling cellos and basses, offering some of the score’s more stirring moments. Occasionally, cues like “Seconds Lost” and “I’m Sorry” briefly revisit the lush, melancholy thematic material from the opening cue, reminding the listener just how good this score could have been.

However, for far too much of the time, the score simply trudges onwards, rumbling away in the background, adding some brooding textures and a certain sense of menace and tension, but never really amounting to anything much. There are string chords and incessant pulses – both percussive and electronic – and, occasionally, some interesting rhythmic ideas creep in, but on the whole cues like “What’s This Really All About?”, “Bunker Bust”, “March 13 Attempt”, “A Place to Change” and others are fairly generic in their construction, and certainly pale massively in comparison to the stunning opening. Occasionally, these mid-album cues even lurch unsteadily towards the land of the dull – “Important Call”, for example, is little more than a percussive heartbeat overlaid with some simple string textures. Some of Ottman’s synth work also seems curiously anachronistic, and feels as though it would be more at home in a Bourne movie than a WWII thriller.

 

THE BREAKDOWN

  • Final Score: 96% – A

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