Captain Corelli's Mandolin
Decca Records, 2001
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/19/2001
A soundtrack is supposed to do more than merely provide entertainment to the listener; it is occasionally supposed to act as a guidepost for the corresponding action on-screen. This is especially true when a movie mostly features an original score written especially for it. Certain composers are masters of this art; John Williams, Ennio Morricone and Jerry Goldsmith are three names which come to mind immediately.
Stephen Warbeck tries his best with the score to Captain Corelli's Mandolin, essentially attempting to capture the cross between the Mediterranean culture which this film is set in and the American interloper who becomes both the leading man and the romantic interest. (If it seems like I'm waffling, you can guess I haven't seen the film. Actually, just the fact that Penelope Cruz is in this picture is reason enough for me to go.) But while the selections are somewhat pleasant, the score as a whole doesn't quite hit the target the way that Warbeck would have liked it to.
It may say something for Captain Corelli's Mandolin that the most memorable portions feature vocals, even those which Warbeck himself penned (though the lyrics themselves come from different authors). Now, I absolutely hate opera - and I mean, with a passion - but I have to admit there is something especially chilling (meant in the best way possible) hearing the late Enrico Caruso perform "Santa Lucia". It feels like you're looking into a time machine and seeing the legend perform before your very eyes - and if you need a further comparison, if listening to Andrea Bocelli brings a tear to your eye, imagine the power of Caruso.
A similar performance on "La Scala Songs," taking two selections we've all probably heard at some point in our lives and giving them a new injection of life, helps to carry that power forward. Similarly, the selections featuring Russell Watson, "Senza Di Te" and "Ricordo Ancor (Pelagia's Song)," keep that spark of excitement burning bright.
Ah, if only the entire score for Captain Corelli's Mandolin were to shine as brightly. Granted, I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy such selections as "Pelagia's Song," "The Tango," "The Battle" and "The Aftermath," though sometimes it feels like these tracks segue too close to one another, not allowing the listener the time to shift from one musical focus to the next. In a similar vein, while Warbeck has created an enjoyable enough bed of music that tries to move the plot along, it's often hard to become as emotionally involved with the music as one might while watching the actual film. Outstanding soundtracks can capture this emotion standing on their own; enjoyable but lacking soundtracks need the film to keep the energy alive. In this case, "lacking" isn't a terrible thing, but Captain Corelli's Mandolin often feels like it's leaving the uninitiated listener on the side of the road.
Warbeck does do a good job capturing the regional flavor in his score, though I did find myself wishing there had been a little more emphasis on vocals with some of the selections. As it stands, Captain Corelli's Mandolin is a halfway decent effort, but sometimes it seems like Warbeck could have tuned the instrument a little better.