La Sindrome Di Stendhal

Ennio Morricone

" La Sindrome Di Stendhal is a great score and a work of intriguing, suffocating consistency, "

Written by Joep de Bruijn - Review of the regular release

La Sindrome Di Stendhal (The Stendhal Syndrome') is a 1996 horror thriller directed by Dario Argento. The director´s daughter Asia plays the lead role and the cast is complimented by great actors such as Thomas Kretschmann and Marco Leonardi. The film marked the long awaited reunion between Argento and Morricone, who wrote impressive music for his first three films. Due to questionable criticism from the producer of the films of that time, who felt all the dissonant music sounded the same, the director would turn to other composers such as Goblin and Pino Donaggio. This is something that still puzzles me, because many years later, this could be righteous critism for a reasonable amount of his works, but these three reached the very borders of inventiveness. La Sindrome Di Stendhal was followed by Argento´s ll Fantasma dell'Opera, his last horror movie to date.

La Sindrome Di Stendhal is a great score and a work of intriguing, suffocating consistency, which I think is largely due to the film. Surely, the other works on Argento's Giallo's and numerous horror films, have had great themes, re-occurring motifs (and experimental chaos), but this score is best described as a consistent hypnotic nightmare. The main theme is built around an eight note long ostinato, carried over to different instruments, such as menacing brass, (bass) strings, the childless voice of Alexys Schwartz singing wordless and woodwinds, frequently counterbalanced by a shorter motif. Throughout the score Morricone exchanges the instruments for both the eight note theme and its counterbalance part, while supplementing them with other musical instruments and sounds. Of all ideas, for counterbalancing the eight note theme, the synth motif is perhaps the most effective, but it really is just nitpicking, because it all is truly brilliant. Some things can be said of the general use of synths, drums and percussion that the composer uses to give thematic treatments a sense of movement, which show just little beauty marks. For some reason, the opening cue, as heard on the album, is used in the film film up to the first three minutes.

Another reason the score feels so consistent in tone, is how easily the unsettling and hypnotic theme morphs into more experimental passages. And yes, there are no largely deviating pieces of softer material that could break with the overall atmosphere. One of the more interesting tools is how Morricone deploys scary voices, which from a distance resemble the Penderecki approach of his rejected/unused score The Bible (1966) score, most notable and fully heard in Il Segreto di Sahara (The Mountain Door and The Passage). The dark, clustered use of the chilling voices, shrieking , hissing, shouting and whaling, become a vital secondary motif to address the psychiatric Stendal syndrome, which the main character suffers from upon looking at an artwork in the museum (and fainting), in her quest to capture the serial killer. It fuses with atonal unsettling orchestral and synthesized sounds that resemble music he wrote for the Argento trilogy, which is equally strong, but just less innovative.

La Sindrome Di Stendhal should have been Morricone's swang song for Horror movies, since I highly doubt he will ever write another score like this again, and ll Fantasma dell'Opera, his very last of the genre, is not entirely furfulling. It is rather good, but apart from the mesmerising romantic theme of that score, the ''suspenseful'' material shows weaknesses.

1. La Sindrome Di Stendhal Theme 7:23
2. Entrare Nell' Opera 4:01
3. Da Caravaggio A Canaletto 2:14
4. Canto Per Alexis 2:15
5. Disperazione E Follia 2:32
6. Per Fiore E Asia 4:30
7. Un Brutto Sogno 3:00
8. Per Fiore E Asia 1:57
9. Nella Nuova Realta 1:50
10. Canto Per Alexis 3:23
11. Gli Uffizi 2:21
12. Solo Alexis 1:50
13. Un Grido Senza Suono 1:30
14. Mente Sconvolta 2:33
15. Dopo Il Silenzio 4:16
16. La Sindrome Di Stendhal Theme 1:36

Total duration 47:10
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(total of 1 votes - average 5/5)

Released by

DRG Records (regular release 1999)