Original Music by: Clint Mansell
Featuring Tracks by: Emily Wells, Philip Glass, Hudson Thames, Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood, Sugar Vendil & Trevor Gureckis and Viorica Cortez
Duration: 54 min
Label: Milan Records
Park Chan-Wook's Stoker is among my top 5 favourite films of the year so far. It has its problems, but Chan-Wook's handling of style and atmosphere is second to none. As notable as the gorgeous cinematography and carefully controlled production design is the film's soundtrack. More often than not, a soundtrack just blends into the background whilst watching a film and I think nothing of it, but I can remember taking note of this one whilst watching it, so when I was offered the chance to review the soundtrack I leapt at the opportunity.
The original score is composed by Clint Mansell, best known for his fruitful collaborations with Darren Aronofsky, in particular the immensely powerful soundtrack to Requiem For a Dream. The main theme of this has been used for hundreds of adverts, documentaries and trailers (not to mention thousands of student films I imagine) since its release in 2000. His work on Stoker isn't as head-poundingly bombastic as that classic score, but instead helps create the seductive and sexy, yet dark and dangerous atmosphere of the film. It's a largely low and simmering affair, but builds with swells of strings and some percussive elements (largely in a modern style) when the sexual and violent tensions of the film raise their heads. Some electronic tampering kicks in for 'The Hunter Plays the Game' too, to create an unexpected shock to the senses towards the end of the album. Through the last third in general, Mansell starts to flex his muscles a bit more and a darker edge and bigger sound creeps in, even if it never gets as huge as in Requiem for a Dream.
A lot of piano is incorporated into the score to go with the fact that the instrument makes a key appearance in several scenes. Anyone who has seen the film will remember an important moment where Mia Wasikowska's India Stoker plays a sexually charged duet with her uncle Charles (Matthew Goode). This track is included in the soundtrack (credited on my digital copy as Sugar Vendil, but on the case and elsewhere as the great Philip Glass) and it's a standout here too. As great as Mansell's atmospheric work is, this piece by Philip Glass is more memorable and intoxicating to listen to, with its looping waves of notes. It's just a shame it's so short.
A couple of other artists' work makes its way into the soundtrack too. Emily Wells has two tracks on here (one a collaboration with Mansell). 'Becoming the Color' is a slick, trip-hop tinged song which really gets in your head. 'If I Ever Had a Heart' melds some of the orchestral cues from the score with electronic pulses and beats alongside unusual background wailings from Wells. It works nicely, but isn't as catchy as 'Becoming the Color'. Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood provide a sexy classic with Summer Wine which again is memorable within the film and there's also an operatic track from Il Trovatore, sung by Viorica Cortez. This is a rousing addition to the album and fits the upper class operatics of the film itself.
Overall this is a very strong soundtrack. Mansell's score might not be as anthemic as his work with Aronofsky, but it fits the tone of the film perfectly and combined with the work of the other artists on the album, it all makes for a deliciously dark and seductive listen.
Emily Wells' 'Becomes the Color', from the soundtrack: