- Composed by Alexander Cimini
- Kronos Records / 2016 / 58m
An Italian fantasy horror movie, Dark Waves (known as Bellerofonte in its native land) is about a couple who live in a tower out on the open ocean and are visited by all sorts of unwelcome guests, including long-dead pirates. The film had some festival showings in 2015 but made its mainstream debut earlier this year with a DVD release in America. It’s directed by Domiziano Cristopharo, whose previous film Red Krokodil introduced me (and many others) to the music of the talented Alexander Cimini.
If you imagine the lush, romantic sections of that score extended into a full work along the same lines then you get some way to imagining what Dark Waves is like. It’s unabashedly full-on in its approach, old-school gothic romantic horror music. The frequent use of wordless soprano has led every man and his dog to mention Ennio Morricone (as I’ve just done) but really it’s another film music use of the device that springs to my mind immediately when hearing it, which is Wojciech Kilar’s The Ninth Gate (check out the rhapsodic “Fragments of Memories” to see what I mean – but actually, check it out anyway, because it’s just outstanding – the violin solo so exquisite) filtered perhaps through the sound of some classic Pino Donaggio.
The voice is introduced in the opening cue which also serves to present the ravishingly beautiful main theme; not long after it reaches climax in “The Tower”, a very moving and powerful piece of emotional music. In “Love Scene” the voice is accompanied by piano (performed by the composer), and a new, elegantly classical theme is heard. “Hidden Mysteries” is a gorgeous piece, sounding like a concert hall opus, sandwiching one of the score’s few concessions to creepy music in between two soaring bookends – it’s all the more effective for it.
There’s really not much in the way of “scary” music here at all: the wash of strings in “The Fog” is designed to be unsettling, particularly with the introduction of some jagged piano chords; and later “The Secrets Revealed” offers what verges on the kind of conventional thriller music one might expect in a film like this more than it is, brass and percussion coming more to the fore – interestingly, some of the soloists are present here too, which means it doesn’t seem as jarring as it might otherwise have done. In between them, “Follow Me” includes a lovely flute solo (which for me is when the score really does have an element of Morricone to it) along with yet another beautiful fresh melody, for strings and piano.
After the end credits (“Memories Lost in the Sea” which is, needless to say, absolutely beautiful – whimsical piano at the outset, vocals and orchestra gradually swelling afterwards) comes a real bonus. First is what is described as the “soundtrack version” of the cue “Follow Me”: running eight minutes, it takes the core material from the film version of the cue earlier on the album and Cimini extends it further, taking his time to really push the melancholy feel for a while before going for something with a decidedly epic hue, with a luxurious sheen on top throughout. Finally, perhaps even better, is a nine-minute concert suite of the score’s main ideas, for orchestra only, which summarises them splendidly (it would bring the house down if it were actually heard in concert).
It’s so wonderful when a treat as unexpected as Dark Waves comes along. Even though I was highly impressed with Red Krokodil, I wasn’t prepared for something quite this lush and beautiful – from start to finish, it’s just a joy to hear. The 17 minutes of the two extended pieces at the end are just heavenly. Italy has produced no shortage of great film composers and Alexander Cimini clearly has the talent to be another. He couldn’t write a score like this in Hollywood, not in 2016 – it’s too melodic, too emotional. But outside Hollywood there are still filmmakers who appreciate this kind of music – this composer/director pairing is clearly one to watch and I hope the composer gets the opportunity to do his thing on a wider selection of films too. He clearly deserves the opportunity.
Rating: **** 1/2
Red Krokodil Alexander Cimini