Review Summary: Even if you are not a fan of the book or the film, this is one part of the ongoing saga that can be enjoyed by everyone.
Every aspect of The Da Vinci Codes seems to have attained some aspect of notoriety. The starting point was the book itself, which opened up a Pandora's box of ideas that many found interesting, outrageous, fake, conspiratorial or even downright blasphemous, depending on their own worldview. The reality was that the story itself was pure fiction but was entwined with older and well-documented ideas that, like most theories, were neither new nor proven. The bulk of these ideas had been re-packaged for the modern eye only a decade or so earlier in the best seller "Holy Blood and the Holy Grail" a work that the authors themselves are happy to admit are just subjective theory. But such is the power of taking long lost academic arguments and presenting them as the "fat free, diet light" version for the new age.
The film that followed also caused much of a stir for pretty much a different reason. Although fairly true to Browns book and therefore capable of continuing the furore over its core ideas, the backlash this time was more to do with the fact that many people believed that Ron Howard's film didn't live up to the hype generated by the Frankenstein's Monster that was now at large. To be fair the craze over the book and film was so immense polarised and completely irrational and out of control that no film ever could have met the demands put upon it.
So with Dan Brown standing at two for two, as they say across the water, its time to move on to the sound track of the film. What could a mere soundtrack contribute to this hysteria? Apparently when the film went before the censorship board to get its initial rating for the cinema it received the 13 rating that the producers were looking for. This was before the sound track had been edited in. When the film was represented to the board complete with sound track it was decided that the music added so much more atmosphere and latent foreboding to the proceedings that the rating would be raised and the only way to retain a more family friendly rating would be to tone down the music. That is what happened and this is possible the first time that a reappraisal for the rating for a film has been based on the musical score, though I may be wrong.
As such with so much already expected of anything related to the Da Vinci Code, it was going to need a major talent to be called for to create the score for such a film, of such a book and nobody would have been surprised when the task at hand fell to Hans Zimmer. Having made a name for himself creating blistering music to accompany such highly charged action films as "The Rock" and "Black Hawk Down" it was obvious that he is capable of delivering the highly charged rousing end to the score but this film was not in the same genre as those I've mentioned although there are a number of exciting moments. The Da Vinci code is altogether more cerebral but when you recall the work done by Zimmer for "Gladiator" which is essentially the thinking mans epic, then you know you are in the hands of someone capable of cutting the cloth to fit all requirements. Given the nature of the film the brief would have been obvious from the start. The film is woven from very religious and thought inducing subjects and with a backdrop of churches, libraries, museums and the night you would expect imposing choral pieces and rich, languorous orchestral passages to be the choice of approach.
The focal theme, first heard in 'Dies Mercurii I Martius', is a sublime blend of sepulchral string work and soaring vocals that effortlessly captures the gothic essence of the piece, building like distant thunder brooding and rolling menacingly before delivering a sharp awakening. This opening salvo sets the framework for what follows. The first three tracks can almost be seen as one piece creating the melancholy tension that is a subtext to the film and correspondingly the music as well. To list all of the tracks would be pointless as sound tracks tend to fulfil a different roll that a lot of music. Created to be an accompaniment to the visual action of the film before you, when listened to for its own sake it is best used as a background, more so in this case given the subdued nature of the music found here. Often the music is very quiet, relying on a single instrument to hold your attention and it is this unobtrusive nature that makes it able to move from a multi-million pound movie to the background music of a relaxing dinner party.
There are moments of excitement found amongst the score; "Fructus Gravis" slowly builds into crescendo, reflecting the screen action before dropping us back into the gentle violins and cellos that make up "Ad Arcana". There is a great deal of choral work woven alongside the instrumentation and this is most apparent in "Salvente Virgines" a piece that matches soaring female voices with the masculine bass vocals that it uses as a platform. Imagine if you will a slow rendition of "O Fortuna" and you will have some idea how this sounds. Oddly enough this medieval sounding piece is a bonus to the CD and never featured in the film but in the way that exceptions often prove a rule it in neatly encapsulates what the score is all about. The Gregorian chants that appear from time to time may seem the obvious way to go with such a creation and are used sparingly and never feel contrived or false.
The music in many ways goes beyond just colouring the film but underscores the meanings contained with in it, a transfer of emotion from screen to viewer by use of the score. What Zimmer does so well here is use restraint, instead of resolving the emotions that are invoked by the music, he keeps pulling the listener in and like the film you always think that you are on the edge of an important revelation, waiting for the music to suddenly burst open in glory and light. But it is not until the end of the film that this is delivered where it acts as a sort of conclusion to the work, here " Chevaliers De Sangreal" has a lightness and warmth that most of the previous numbers don't contain and parallels the resolutions of the films subject matter.
This is a highly atmospheric tapestry of elegantly woven themes, but will the music stand the test of time and rank along side such soundtrack legends as 'The Lion in Winter' and 'The Omen', with which it has to compete? Well, no although that's not to say that it's not a great piece of work. The nature of the film almost dictates that the music would never get the chance to be as ear catching and memorable as some of Zimmer's other work. But it does the job well both as part of the film and as something to relax to in the home. Even if you are not a fan of the book or the film, this is one part of the ongoing saga that can be enjoyed by everyone.