As they say, it is always darkest before the dawn, and as the HARRY POTTER series inches towards its inevitable close with HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, things are ever-gloomy. And who better to accentuate the increasingly bleak, brooding drama than Alexandre Desplat, a man known the world over for his hyper-dramatic panache. If you want a soundtrack that combines romance, adventure, enchantment and moroseness, there are few people in Hollywood who can do it as believably as he can.
Easily one of the most in-demand composers in Hollywood, Desplat never fails to deliver. With THE GHOST WRITER, TAMARA DREWE, THE SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP, and THE KING’S SPEECH already to his credit this year, one would think that he would be too tapped out to even begin to tackle the monumental task of adding yet another dimension to the already expansive HARRY POTTER sound palette.
He carved his own niche last year with THE TWILIGHT SAGA: NEW MOON, almost wholly ignoring the work that was seeded before him. However, during THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, Desplat seems to have actually acknowledged his predecessors’ work and blended their signature statements within his own musical ideas.
When the soundtrack begins, it really does not ring as a Harry Potter of old, which a lot of people were hoping to receive, clutching tirelessly a dream of having John Williams return and brighten up the last two films. However, the darkness surrounding this story is so grim that it is arguable that Williams would have even been able to pull it off [*gasp* someone questioned the ability of the almighty John Williams?] His penchant for wonder, whimsy and illuminating, atmospheric magic worked beautifully for the introduction to the series, but these are not the same characters they were in the beginning, so it only makes sense for the production to move beyond the conventions of old.
That said, there are moments in HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS that perk the ears, resonating with Williams-isms, especially in the brass and string relationship, most notably recognizable during “Polyjuice Potion.” Even the bombast of the battle and chase sequences ring with a Williams influence, but more in the STAR WARS / SUPERMAN vein than previous POTTER entries.
Another things fans will notice how “Hedwig’s Theme” has been subdued to the point where only hints of it bleed into other themes in the score. It is no longer used as a ‘main theme’ as it is a somber reminder of who Harry Potter is and his ultimate mission. It is understandable that some fans of the series may be put off by the depressive nature of the soundtrack.
Desplat does a more than admirable job of proving that the world of Harry Potter is no longer a jovial landscape of Chocolate Frogs and Exploding Snap – things have this nasty habit, especially in the latter half of the series for going from bad to worse in Harry’s life. Not to hint at any spoilers, but with all the deaths that rack up in the finale, it’s a wonder the kid has any hope left to cling to.
There’s also a maturity that Desplat places into the Potter atmosphere that was never truly present in the past, reflecting the notion that Harry is no longer the wide-eyed little kid he once was. It is another reason why “Hedwig’s Theme” has transitioned from bright and fluffy to melancholic and mournful. His focus on maturation is none more present than during “Ron’s Speech,” where the musical accompaniment is filled with a new-found confidence and resolve, illustrating Ron Weasley’s own personal development.
Many people gave Nicholas Hooper flak for changing the HARRY POTTER tone palette and moving away from the pre-established themes. While Desplat follows a similar path, hopefully fans will appreciate the dramatic realism he brings to the table. And for those who already do not enjoy Desplat’s work, I have some bad news for you. According to the liner notes, David Yates has already signed him to compose HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 2.
The soundtrack to HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 1 is currently available at Amazon and Amazon Digital.