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  • Stefan Riedlinger

Dead Again - Patrick Doyle - Soundtrack Review

This is the first review of a Patrick Doyle score on my website, so let’s start with some basic information. I was looking for another composer except Jerry, John and Hans who is writing regular for movies. I then discovered Patrick Doyle and heard about his Dead Again is a 1991 American neo-noir[2] romantic thriller film directed by Kenneth Branagh and written by Scott Frank. It stars Branagh and Emma Thompson, with co-stars Andy García, Derek Jacobi, Wayne Knight, and Robin Williams.great music to Kenneth Branagh’s adaption of Shakespeare’s “Much ado about nothing”.

The movie

"Dead Again" is a 1991 American neo-noir romantic thriller film directed by Kenneth Branagh and written by Scott Frank. It stars Branagh and Emma Thompson, with co-stars Andy García, Derek Jacobi, Wayne Knight, and Robin Williams. Here is the trailer:

“Dead Again” was the first soundtrack I bought, and I immediately loved it. I listened to the music first, bought the CD without knowing the film, and saw the movie afterward, a totally different approach from my usual behavior.

The movie is another part of the very successful collaboration between Patrick Doyle and Kenneth Branagh. If you do a research, you will find out that a lot of directors like to work with certain composers in a regular way, e.g. Branagh with Doyle, Spielberg with John Williams, and of course, Paul Verhoeven, Fred Schepisi, Joe Dante, Frank J. Schaffner with Jerry. The plot is complicated and has a lot of twists. Therefore, I decided not talking about it at all here.

The music

“Dead Again”, nominated for a Golden Globe Award, is one of the few soundtracks you also can enjoy when you did not see the movie before. The “Main Title” is one of my favorite tracks not only from this score; I general like this track very much and keep listening to it all over the years. This track is additionally a good example for Doyle’s composing style, and critics are not sure how much influence Doyle’s orchestrator Laurence Ashmore has.

Born in Scotland in 1953, Doyle graduated from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in 1974 where he studied piano and singing. His first music score was written in 1978. In 1987, Doyle joined the Renaissance Theatre Company as composer and musical director. In his career, Doyle has composed music for different genres such as action, thriller, comedy, and fantasy. He also composed the music for the fourth part of the “Harry Potter”-series called “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” and changed the meter of the famous “Hedwig Theme” from 3/4 to 4/4, a very interesting change.

What I really like in Doyle’s way of composing is his sense of melodies; each soundtrack has its own melodies and lovely themes. Doyle is great in working with these themes and melodies through the score, and the interesting part of “Dead Again” is that there is a movie-in-the-movie and also an opera the characters are talking out.

In November, 1997, Doyle was diagnosed with leukemia. He still completed his score for “Great Expectations” (another lovely one) and continued to work during treatment. By 1998, his career had returned to full swing, and it seems his fight against cancer was successful.

“Dead Again” has 13 tracks, the album has a length of 32 min, and it is very difficult to talk about the music without commenting the movie. In my opinion, this movie is highly enjoyable and if you had no chance to watch it, grab the DVD and have a good time and be surprised about some great twists. Here is the track called "The Headlines", the first track:

So, just some basic comments about the score, the music offers a good mixture of dramatic and lovely moments. These quieter moments mostly take place in the 40s, e.g. “Winter 1948”, and Doyle uses strings and brass to recreate the feeling of these times. Some people compare the style of composing with Alfred Hitchcock’s composer Bernard Herrmann, but even though there might be some similarities, the composer style is totally different, and sorry Patrick, Herrmann is a much better composer.

Doyle’s music is not as complicated and artistically composed as Jerry’s, Doyle’s music is much more simple, more one-dimensional but because of his sense of drama and romantic, the soundtracks are very enjoyable, and I have quite a lot of them and still like to listen to them regularly.

Let me just mention a few tracks: after the energetic main title, there is a quieter piece called “Final Request” with a use of electronics – I think it underscores the interview scene in the Prison - before the short “A Walk Down Death Row” brings back the Action again.

“A Woman With No Names” is a good example how Doyle is able to build up tension in a scene. You can listen to how he develops a dramaturgical structure for the first hypnosis scene; overall, the track is very well structured. “Two Halves On The Same Person” brings us after “Winter 1948” again at the actual time of the movie, and the love-interest between the two main characters is making progress. “It Never Rains in LA” underscores one of the love scenes in the movie, a short but very enjoyable track, and a good example of Doyle’s mentioned ability to write lovely themes and melodies.

Suspension starts again with “Im Not Roman”, listen here especially to the use of percussion and strings, one reason I really like Doyle’s way of composing. “Ingas Secret” brings us back to the past, the use of the piano is very enjoyable here, Doyle plays this piece as part of the opera which is an important aspect of the movie.

“Hightower House” and “Fate Happens/Death of A Madman” are the two action highlights of the score. I like the second one very much, especially the use of the choir. Doyle created a very nice action piece and combines his main theme with the use of a choir for the climax. In the movie, the scene is a little bit over the top and shot in slow motion, but on a big screen, I suppose, it works really well. Even if these two pieces can stand alone, you will have more fun listening when you have the scenes back in mind.

“The Door is closed”, beautiful use of the strings and the love theme, and especially the last track “Dead Again”, a great mixture of the love and the dramaturgical aspects of the score, bring this album to a conclusion.

After listening to this album, I fall in love with Doyle because he was a man who really brought fresh ideas to the film music at that time. I continued following Doyle’s career and even though he is not such a master as Jerry Goldsmith and John Williams, I like listing to his scores, and “Dead Again” was the first one.

Copyright © Stefan Riedlinger, 2015, all rights reserved. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Stefan Riedlinger.

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