Film Score Monthly
Screen Archives Entertainment 250 Golden and Silver Age Classics on CD from 1996-2013! Exclusive distribution by SCREEN ARCHIVES ENTERTAINMENT.
Wild Bunch, The King Kong: The Deluxe Edition (2CD) Body Heat Friends of Eddie Coyle/Three Days of the Condor, The It's Alive Ben-Hur Nightwatch/Killer by Night Gremlins Space Children/The Colossus of New York, The
Forgot Login?
Search Archives
Film Score Friday
Latest Edition
Previous Edition
Archive Edition
The Aisle Seat
Latest Edition
Previous Edition
Archive Edition
View Mode
Regular | Headlines
All times are PT (Pacific Time), U.S.A.
Site Map
Visits since
February 5, 2001:
© 2018 Film Score Monthly.
All Rights Reserved.
Return to Articles

The Synthesizer and the Odyssey

by Christopher Walsh

The miniseries edition of The Odyssey, happily, overcame the typical problems of translating literature to manageable size for TV; despite the Cliff's Notes story condensing, exceptionally poorly timed cuts to commercials the frequent cartoonishness of men-in-togas acting, the end result was a well-paced, beautifully shot ripping yarn. While the poetry of the original epic was left far behind?what if someone filmed The Odyssey with no dialogue, to reflect some of the inherent abstraction of poetic structure??the moments of humanity in the acting made the changes worthwhile. Penelope's unraveling of the wedding shroud, usually presented as a calculated plan to delay the suitors' proposals, comes across here as an impetuous, impulsive yet instinctively correct moment. Some offbeat casting choices generally came off well (though Michael J. Pollard as squeaky- voiced "Gawd" Iolus became almost instantly grating); the special effects were for the most part excellent, though a poorly done serpent very early in the proceedings was almost a disaster; and the earthy Greek deities wisely were presented with interesting variety and never in the formal, God-in-the-clouds manner that Monty Python and the Holy Grail parodied so effectively 23 years ago. Quite simply, I had a good time with this telefilm.

The music by Edward Artemyev, however, was a misstep, a disappointing reminder of why the words "synth" and "dreck" are so frequently linked by our man Lukas. The score seems the only part of the $40 million production?a hefty price for television?that was not lavishly done. An electronic ensemble tried to give the film an epic power, but offered no interesting aural associations and came off as a jarring attempt to save money. The only effective moments of the score came from live acoustic and ethnic instruments, suggesting this miniseries needed more archaic-sounding live music, much the way Michael Kamen originally hoped to score Robin Hood. Another hint of what-might-have-been was an acoustic, coiled "longing for Ithaca" theme, frequently played on ethnic instruments on Part Two. This melody, which I'd imagine Maurice Jarre would have been happy to write, nicely captured the simple pleasures which Odysseus missed so dearly (though Gretta Scacchi is more than a simple pleasure...).

Even with the especially crushing schedules one gets when scoring for miniseries, excellent music is possible; think of the successful scores for The Stand, Gettysburg, Masada and others. Also, the choice of Artemyev seems especially odd given the talent pool of capable composers which the producers of The Odyssey have tapped in recent years: Francis Ford Coppola got meaty scores from Kamen (Jack) and Wojciech Kilar (Dracula); Nicholas Meyer got muscular, moody work from Cliff Eidelman (Star Trek VI); and Robert Halmi, Sr. worked with Trevor Jones on Gulliver's Travels, some of Jones's best music in a long time. Director Andrei Konchalovsky has also worked with Jones, on the intense and thoughtful action drama Runaway Train; that film's blend of rock, chorus, Japanese flute and Vivaldi's Gloria built to a finale that is heartbreaking and triumphant at the same time. Given all of these potential scorers?and add to this the fact that the completely different, StarGate-styled orchestral music was used in every single Odyssey promo and commercial break?and we were continually reminded of the weakness of the final score. At least we can imagine the better music which The Odyssey deserved; I'm hearing various parts of Bram Stoker's Dracula as I try to do so.

To Be Continued...

Return to Articles Author Profile
Comments (0):Log in or register to post your own comments
There are no comments yet. Log in or register to post your own comments
Film Score Monthly Online
Dario Marianelli’s Darkest Notes
The Incredible Shrinking Composer
The Showmen of Showman
Movie Music for End Titles Heads for Extinction at Lincoln Center
Wong's Turn: 2017 Memo to the Academy Music Branch
The Magnificent Seven: Directors Who Yield Great Scores, Part 3
Gold Rush: The Unseen Heroine and Franz Waxman's Ghost Orchestra
Ear of the Month Contest: Maurice Jarre
Concert Review: Not A Very Long Time Ago in a Concert Hall Far, Far Away
Today in Film Score History:
January 19
Bjorn Isfalt died (1997)
David Shire records his score for the Amazing Stories episode "Moving Day" (1987)
Dennis McCarthy records his score for the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “Life Support” (1995)
Gerard Schurmann born (1924)
Jerome Moross begins recording his score to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1960)
Jerry Goldsmith begins recording electronic cues for Logan's Run (1976)
John Williams records his score for The Ghostbreaker (1965)
Michael Boddicker born (1953)
Recording sessions begin for Cyril Mockidge’s score to The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
Stu Phillips born (1929)
FSMO Featured Video
Video Archive • Audio Archive
© 2018 Film Score Monthly. All Rights Reserved.