The Human Stain (Soundtrack) by Rachel Portman

 

 

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The Human Stain (Soundtrack) by Rachel Portman

"Returning to an Unstained Past"
Review by Matt Peterson

 

The Human Stain (Soundtrack) by Rachel Portman

The Human Stain
7/10

'The Human Stain (Soundtrack) by Rachel Portman

Category    Score

Originality 6
Music Selection 8
Composition 7
CD Length 8
Track Order 7
Performance 7
Final Score 7/10
 

 

Rachel Portman
Composer 
Rachel Portman


 

Real Audio Clips

 
 
 
 

 

Quick Quotes


"
The score succeeds in its intentions at every turn, but it is very introverted and subdued." ***

Christian Clemmenson - Filmtracks Reviews
The Human Stain

 

 

 

Music composed by Rachel Portman
Orchestrated by Rachel Portman and Jeff Atmajian
Conducted by David Snell
Released by Lakeshore Records on September 23, 2003

As a master of the domestic drama and comedy, Rachel Portman was a natural choice to score one of Miramax’s major Oscar hopefuls. The Human Stain stars an Academy Award caliber cast, including Anthony Hopkins, Nicole Kidman, Ed Harris and Gary Sinise. Adapted from the Philip Roth novel, Hopkins plays an aged New England professor who begins an unconventional affair with the intelligent, mysterious Nicole Kidman. Hopkins must deal not only with the scandalous nature of the relationship, but with Kidman’s ex (Ed Harris) and racial issues from his past. The film, after several release date changes, has finally hit theaters amidst mixed reviews.

Rachel Portman has seen a string of recent successes. After her commercially popular work on Chocolat, Portman created a superb score for Hart’s War—one of last year’s best musical outings. This was a very unconventional project for her. After scoring a plethora of comedies and dramas, she successfully rose to the challenge of accompanying a testosterone-charged war film (which was ultimately a courtroom drama). With The Human Stain, Portman returns to her domestic roots, creating a very subdued, introverted and contemplative score.

The Human Stain is heavy with Portman’s trademark strings and piano. Aside from these elements, there are virtually no other orchestral contributors to this score. It is a simple work, centered on a meandering main theme that shifts between minor keys in a very soothing fashion. Actually, the word soothing is a great way to describe this score. Strings meld with the piano’s renditions of the main theme, which appears in virtually every track of the score. As a result, thematic variation and ambiance are the central in the score, which at times becomes quite repetitive. Like the subject matter of the film, the music is intensely personal and does not attempt to reach great musical heights. This is not an original or groundbreaking work. However, the score is still a decent listen on album.

The album is quite short, clocking in at 35:11. This is a blessing in disguise. Any longer, and the repetitive nature of the score would make the listening experience less enjoyable. Since many tracks sound very similar, it is difficult to point out highlights. One can listen to the opening track and get a good idea of what the rest of the score entails. A gentle piano tune begins, setting the somber mood of the score. Then, strings filter in, providing support that adds depth and emotion. There is a nice sense of layering throughout. Different string sections perform various motifs that accentuate the piano’s melodic line. Portions reminded me of the subdued, foreboding strings of David Julyan’s underrated Insomnia.

Some tracks, such as “It's in the Mail/End Credits (Original Version)” Track 3 do stand out, featuring Portman’s trademark octave jumping string underscore, used heavily in Hart’s War. At times, the main theme makes a few too many appearances. “Navy Recruiting” builds to a nice crescendo, and is taken over by the arpeggios that accompany the main theme—a nice touch. Other tracks, such as “You Think Like a Prisoner” are so minimalist, there is little substance to be had. Toward the end of the album, many cues fall into this category. Despite some shortcomings, the score flows and blends together. It is a seamless listen.

Overall, Portman’s effort for The Human Stain is worthy of praise. She has successfully woven a very personal, contemplative score that seems to communicate the mood of the film perfectly. Despite the presence of one main theme, the variations within are interesting enough to hold the listener’s attention for the short running time of the album. Any longer, and the repetition may stain the experience.


Track Listing and Ratings

 Track

Title Time

 Rating

1 Opening Credits 3:11  ****
2 Iris Dies/Library/Coleman Waits for Faunia 2:29  ***
3 It's in the Mail/End Credits (Original Version) Track 3 7:03  ****
4 The Two Urns/Father Dies 2:31  ***
5 Navy Recruiting 1:01  ***
6 Steena Rejects Coleman 1:28  **
7 Audobon Society/The Crow 2:35  **
8 Coleman's Funeral/Faunia Dances 1:14  ***
9 The Accident 2:46  **
10 You Think Like a Prisoner 2:05  **
11 Frozen Lake 1:36  ***
12 It's in the Mail/End Credits (Rewrite) 7:03  ****
 

Total Running Time

35:11  

The Human Stain by Rachel Portman

*The Experience-O-Meter displays the track to track listening experience of this soundtrack based on the 5-Star rating given to each track.  It provides a visual depiction of the ebbs and flows of the CD's presentation of the soundtrack.

 

Referenced Reviews
  Chocolat  |  Hart's War

 

 

 

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