top of page
  • Writer's pictureStefan

Great Expectations - Patrick Doyle - Soundtrack Review

This week finally Patrick Doyle’s score for “Great Expectations”. This movie is very popular because of a very romantic kissing in the rain scene and Doyle’s music for it, and, to be honest, this track is the track of the score I mostly listen to.

The movie

“Great Expectations” (1988) is a contemporary film adaptation of Charles Dickens’ novel, co-written and directed by Alfonso Cuarón and starring Ethan Hawke, Gwyneth Paltrow, Hank Azaria, Robert De Niro, Anne Bancroft and Chris Cooper.

Dickens’ novel takes place in London during 1812 and 1827, but the screenwriter Mitch Glazer set the plot from London to New York into 1990s and changed the name of the male character from Pip to Finn. Additionally, the character Miss Havisham has been renamed to Nora Dinsmoor. The voice overs were not in the original screenplay, but producer Art Linson felt once the film was edited that these were needed. Previously working with screenwriter David Mamet on “The Edge“ (1997, with a great score by Jerry Goldsmith), Linson hired him to write the voice overs, but. Mamet was not credited in the final film.

Here is the trailer:

I am not a big fan of voice overs in general. I think mostly they are used because the writer or director is not able to create a scene that speaks for itself. David & Jerry Zucker and Jim Abrahams made great fun of the typical serious voice overs in classical crime film noir movies in the famous “Naked Police”-series and “Naked Gun”-Trilogy with Leslie Nielson.

Charles Dickens was a great author, and we read “Oliver Twist” in school, but I think that his time is over. Therefore, I normally try to avoid reading Dickens novels and watching adaptations based on his books. Placing the plot of “Great Expectation” in the 1990s was a great idea, and Cuaron is such a talented director that I really enjoyed this movie and was immediately caught by it. Cuaron is also the director of the third “Harry Potter”-movie, in my opinion, the best of the franchise, and also directed the SF-movie “Gravity” (2013) with George Clooney and Sandra Bullock.

I do not want to talk too much about the plot and the movie, people should watch and enjoy its twists. The kissing in the rain scene is very popular, and it is a highly erotic and wonderfully directed scene. I remember a female friend of mine saying to me after talking about this scene: “That is a way every girl wants to get picked up!”

The music

Buying the soundtrack is a little confusing because there are two albums, one “soundtrack” with mostly songs written for the movie, and the “score” with Patrick Doyle’s music. It took me a big effort to finally get the score, and this CD is now sold out. The CD consists of 22 tracks and is perhaps the Doyle score that shows the most variety. Imagine that the composer was diagnosed with leukaemia shortly after finishing this work, perhaps that is the reason that the score consists mostly of sad and melancholic music.

Doyle hired guitarist John Williams to play some tracks, and this works very well. Because people get confused about the name, let’s give some background information about John Williams: Born 1941 in Melbourne, Australia, to an English father, Len Williams, who later founded the London Guitar School, and Malaan (née Ah Ket), a daughter of Melbourne barrister William Ah Ket, the Williams family moved 1952 to England. Williams was initially taught guitar by his father who was an accomplished guitarist, and later attended the Royal College of Music in London, from 1956 to 1959, studying piano because the college did not have a guitar department at the time.

If you look Williams’ discography up, you are surprised how often he contributed to soundtracks, but “Great Expectations” is still one of his most popular ones. The tracks of the score Williams played are track 4 “Estella's Theme” (the main theme), track 5 “Ain't Love Grand”, track 6 “A Walk in The Park”, track 13 “A Toast”, track 14 “Benefactor”, and track 17 “It Was Just My Memory Of It”. Here is the main theme:

Doyle used also the Electronic Wind Instrument played by Phil Todd in some tracks and used the piano in track 9 “Joe Leaves”, a track just for the piano. One of the highlights of the score is the aria called “I Saw No Shadow of Another Parting”. This track gives you the impression that Doyle without any doubt could compose an opera. This is a quite impressive track, performed by famous New Zeeland opera singer Kiri Te Kanawa. Here is the track:

American singer-songwriter Tori Amos composed the song “Siren”. She also contributed to the score album with the first track called “Finn” that sets with its whispering voice the tone of the movie, and with track 3 called “Paradiso Perduto”.

One of the nicest performances of the main theme is track 11 “Pyramid of Pain”. Here the main theme is played by the orchestra without the guitar or any vocals, a pretty nice track. Track 15 “Lustig Dies” underscores the last scene for Robert De Niro, another sad piece that will touch you. This is one of the few times that the score erupts out of its mostly quiet style.

Most famous is the track 8 “Kissing in the Rain” with vocals by Miriam Stockley. The South African born British singer and composer has contributed to several film soundtracks, including “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” (2001), Mike Figgis drama “One Night Stand” with a wonderful performance by Action Star Wesley Snipes and German actor Klaus Kinski’s daughter Nastassja Kinski as love couple for one night and the British miniseries “The 10th Kingdom”.

The dramaturgical structure of “Kissing in the rain” is admirable, and when the love couple gets out in the rain, the music erupts with Miriam Stockley’s voice. This is one of the best tracks Doyle ever composed, and I cannot get tired of listening to it. The song was sampled in the song "RoboCop" on Kanye West's 2008 album “808s & Heartbreak”. Here is the scene to this movie. Listen how the music stops when Finn enters the restaurant and then starts again when they dance. What a great scene, what a great music!

“Great Expectations” is one of the few really good romantic movies. Ethan Hawke and Gwyneth Paltrow are playing great together and even though the movie was not a box office hit, you can see what a good director can bring out of a novel that is over 100 years old. Gwyneth Paltrow gives one of her best performances in this movie.

One of the reasons that this movie is still so popular is Patrick Doyle’s music, especially his kissing in the rain music and the scene. That is a scene that really shows what the magic of love is about…

Copyright © Stefan Riedlinger, 2017, 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.

Jerry Goldsmith First Knight.png
Next review...
Latest reviews...
bottom of page