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In the zone of drone
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
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Album cover copyright (c) 2006 Hollywood Records; review copyright (c) 2006 James Southall
Christopher Nolan is undoubtedly one of the most interesting directors around at the moment, maintaining his critical reputation even after tackling a comic book film. The Prestige is about a pair of magicians in Victorian London, played by Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman, and the dark lives they weave for each other. One aspect of Nolan's movies which is not entirely satisfying is the music - I had wondered whether this was because of his composer-of-choice, David Julyan, but even on Batman Begins when the director was forced to go with bigger names, the score ended up being rather dull and droning.
However, at least there was a foundation of strong material and the occasional interesting bout of orchestration or something which Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard managed to push by the censors; The Prestige is an almost unimaginably unambitious, pointless exercise in droning monotony. Julyan has said that the intention was to underscore the anticipation of magic, rather than the excitement and mystery itself, but I'm not really sure how this score achieves that - endless synth pads, string noodling, occasional piano interludes (being very careful to avoid playing anything that might turn into a recognisable melody) - sorry, but what's the point of all this?
It adds nothing to the film, where a good score could have added so much, and as an album is just one enormous waste of time. Minutes pass by without anything happening at all, every track is seemingly-identical, and even if you had fifteen cups of coffee before listening, you'd be almost-guaranteed to be in a deep slumber by the time it ends. I'm surprised to find the album is only 48 minutes long, because I truly thought the record label had found some new technology which allowed them to release a nine-hour CD.
Clearly the idea was to just provide moody atmosphere, but that is done with so little flair, and is no excuse for a score as dull and lifeless as this. Listen to the way Howard Shore or Thomas Newman provide moody atmosphere - in such interesting and novel ways, both effective in the film, and without sacrificing any of their musical integrity. The Prestige is let down in a big way by its dreadful music, and I hope Nolan changes his approach to music in his films.