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Hart's War (Soundtrack from the Motion Picture)

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Album Review

"Hart's War is not a war story," writes director Gregory Hoblit at the start of his liner notes to the film's soundtrack album, taking head-on the double takes most movie music fans are likely to do upon learning that the picture was scored by Rachel Portman. Portman, the Oscar-winning composer of Emma, also wrote music for Chocolat and The Cider House Rules, but she isn't the kind of writer one would think of immediately for a film starring Bruce Willis and set in a World War II German prisoner-of-war camp. But then, says, Hoblit, the picture "is not a World War II prisoner of war escape movie, either." What sort of movie is it? It's "fundamentally about captured American soldiers finding grace, dignity, and honor in the face of extremely difficult and deadly circumstances." Portman's score certainly responds to this interpretation. Its sweeping orchestral music sometimes conveys anxiety, such as in a cue called "Train Yard Strafing and Bombing," but never connotes a real sense of violence. It is lush, sad, and romantic, much more like Emma than it is like, say, Franz Waxman's score for Stalag 17 or Elmer Bernstein's for The Great Escape. It suggests that whatever viewers may expect based on the advertisements and trailers for the film, they are likely to find something else when they go to the theater.


Born: 11 December 1960 in Haslemere, England

Genre: Soundtrack

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

A British-born composer, Rachel Portman's biggest claim to fame was being the first woman to win an Academy Award (an Oscar, that is) for Best Original Score. The award, which resulted from her work on the 1996 film Emma, wasn't her only chance at the coveted prize. She continued her streak of well-received scores by earning nominations in 1999 and 2000 for Cider House Rules and Chocolat, respectively. Portman's first score, for the film War of the Buttons, appeared in 1994. She went on to write...
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