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Dark City, original music by Trevor Jones, 1998, 60:20
Dark City is a movie that I admire a good deal (see my review), mostly for the uniqueness of director Alex Proyas's work in a field largely characterized by distressing dullness. While I was in the theatre, I was so wrapped up in the visuals that I don't think I noticed any of the music. But when a friend offered to loan me his copy of the soundtrack, I was interested to see what I had missed aurally in my preoccupation with the sights. Now that I've listened the soundtrack, I can say that I didn't miss anything per se, more that the music worked just well enough that it did its task and didn't obtrude on my attention. Is that a good thing? Maybe, but I also found that the original scoring, even with the titles, didn't strongly evoke each particular scene for me. And this release is assembled rather poorly, in my opinion.
I was happy to get a chance to listen at my leisure to the two songs that Jennifer Connelly performs in the club during the movie. They are actually sung by Anita Kelsey, and both songs, "Sway," Track 1, and "The Night Has A Thousand Eyes," Track 6, are more evocative of the film for me than the original tracks by Trevor Jones. The lyrics of these two songs are quite creepy, and fit the atmosphere of the film perfectly. That atmosphere is not the most complimentary to women, with its film noir overtones and the various murders of prostitutes. It's a whole complex of attitudes that shades over into sexism, and the songs do fit in with that. Good music direction, but the goal is not the most commendable.
Tracks 2 through 4 are asterisked, with the following note: "bonus tracks not in motion picture." These songs are ok, but why are they on this CD? Dark City didn't strike me as a marketing juggernaut like bigger budget or more heavily advertised movies so why the similar approach to the soundtrack? These three tracks are "The Information" by Course of Empire, "Just a Touch Away" by Echo and the Bunnymen, and "Dark" by Gary Numan. Track 5 is by Hughes Hall and is entitled "Sleep Now." It depicts the scene where the Strangers start tuning, in a kind of eerie techno remix and crashes of sound, but then Track 10 is called "The Strangers Are Tuning," and many of the same themes repeat. The duplication is unfortunate, considering how little of the original score we actually get.
Trevor Jones's music, which makes up the remaining 8 tracks of the CD, is melancholy, especially in the quieter tracks like number 9, "Emma." That kind of brooding approach underlies even the fast, exciting pieces like "The Wall," Track 12, or the climactic 12-minute track that ends the CD, "You Have the Power." This melancholy sometimes shades into excessive sentimentality, as with track 11, "Memories of Shell Beach." In this case, the excess of sentiment makes sense in light of how Shell Beach is an implanted memory meant to test certain elements of human memory. Jones's score also dovetails perfectly with Proyas's vision, but somehow doesn't have the same vigour as the visuals. I have listened to the soundtrack quite a few times now, and I can easily tune out while listening, even to the fast-paced pieces. Despite all the flourishes and excitement, Jones's score is still only background music. That's not a bad thing, and I suppose most directors would envy Proyas the kind of subordinate soundtrack that Jones gave Dark City. But along with the other filler on the CD, it doesn't make for a satisfying listening experience on its own.
First posted: June 9, 1998; Last modified: February 19, 2004
Copyright © 1998-2004 by James Schellenberg (email@example.com)
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