Silva Screen’s CD gathers selected material from the first two films in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and The Girl Who Played with Fire. Where some confusion may lie is in the first track, subtitled “Main TV Theme,” because while the trilogy exists as 3 separate feature films, a wealth of additional material was used to create a 6-part miniseries for Swedish TV, broadcast in 2010.
Certainly in the first film, Jacob Groth’s score is extremely sparse – or it at least feels that way, because it tends to quietly enter and leave scenes without leaving an overt impression.
The opening track “Millennium” begins with a full theme statement - a brief semi-tragic phrase that offers no calm resolution, nor hint at anything optimistic except for revenge. The synth percussion is grungy, the low strings and woodwinds add a lamentable quality to the cue, and not unlike Howard Shore’s serial killer masterpiece Se7en, Groth has his orchestra sit on harmonies, changing the atmosphere ever so slightly with percussion tracks (as in the percolating figures in “Blomkvist”), or tender theme fragments.
Groth’s musical approach to the dark themes in the first two films is like a series of sonic waves. Cues like “The Scheme” illustrate his simple use of tones to change moods in small gestures, whereas rhythmic motifs add tension, bridging scenes, and enlivening periods in the films where their respective running times of 2+ hours are sometimes taxing. “Running Out of Time” blends orchestra and electronic pulses, and its among Groth’s longest cues, covering a car chase and the frantic rescue of Blomkvist from the killer.
“Fire” stems from the second film, and introduces a more overt theme (oddly reminiscent of Hans Zimmer’s Pacific Heights) which Groth uses to infer fleeting peace, and through a key change, seething unrest ( the two components that dominate Lisbeth Salander’s tumultuous persona).
For the remaining cues, Groth uses the same tonal/textural approach, but his “Fire” theme adds surprising warmth to the score, particularly in the gentle cue “More Secrets – Palmgren” where the theme is played on a faintly heard clarinet, and the orchestral density slowly increases to boost a sense of tragedy.
The album also contains a song from the first film, “Would Anybody Die For Me?”
wherein Groth expands on his thematic fragments, developing them into a full melodic work, albeit with simplistic, oft-repeated lyrics.
The only downside to this CD is the lack of cues from the third film, since Groth’s music would’ve brought the billed trilogy to a close – emotionally, and thematically. Moreover, Silva seems to have the rights to different cues than those found on the Milan America CD, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and the identical Milan France CD, Men Who Hate Women (the first film’s original title in Danish). That album generally showcases the straight orchestral cues, and includes a longer version of “Would Anybody Die for Me?”
At 41 mins., Silva’s Millennium Trilogy is a compact album, but it’s a good sampler of the composer’s understated writing style that doesn’t trample its way through scenes. Groth subscribes to an organic approach, perfectly blending with sound effects and dialogue, and appearing only when score is absolutely necessary.
© 2010 Mark R. Hasan