Rating: I don’t think I can give this a proper rating as it’s not really a movie, but kind of an added bonus if you’re a fan of soundtracks. Like you went out of your way to get that special DVD gift pack of Return of the King because it came with a Howard Shore concert, watch those Behind the Scenes: Making of stuff, or go to John Williams concerts.
Summary: One of the most renowned film composers of all time plays his most memorable tunes.
There are people who don’t notice soundtracks, people who know John Williams’ soundtracks, people who can identify soundtracks, and plain old soundtrack/film score nerds. I’d put myself somewhere at that third one, and only at the fourth for certain works. I think anyone who appreciates music, soundtracks, or scores should watch Hans Zimmer: Live in Prague. It’s on Netflix. Take the time to watch this or at the very least, put it on in the background when you’re doing other things- it’s totally worth it. Hans is totally worth it. Hop to it.
Basically, it’s two hours and 30 minutes of soundtracks you probably know, played live by Hans and Friends, against a screen that looks like it’s playing the graphics from Ye Olde Windows Media Player. Between each film, Zimmer gives background to each piece and insight to his creative process. He speaks with such reverence and exuberance that it breathes new life into familiar pieces, providing a different perspective to his work. He interprets noise and the concept of music like no one else does, adding another layer into film scores.
I don’t want to deepdive too far down as to get away from The Man, but there is something truly special about music that is written to accompany specific visuals. That sense of awe when Gandalf enters The Great Hall of Durin (it’s really just a massive stone chamber), the excitement that hits when the next episode of Star Wars begins (it’s just yellow text), someone walking down a street with the feeling of being watched (it’s a dude in a William Shatner mask)- a film’s score is the connective tissue between the film and the audience, filling in the gaps where visuals aim to evoke certain feelings.
Now, there are soundtracks and then there are soundtracks. In the most basic terms, soundtracks accompany a movie. Soundtracks can be accompanied by the movie, with a separate set of analysis and existence outside of the visuals. In the movie-viewing process, I think a successful score is going to evoke some sort of reaction from you. A really successful score will do that, but also bring about a moment of realization in the shift of emotion. This makes it memorable, perhaps driving you to look it up later, and bringing it to that soundtrack status. Zimmer’s Inception, for example, and the way Non, je ne regrette rien is layered as to provide insight into the levels of the dream. It’s effective within the context of the movie, but just as much can be said about the composition of the score and the visuals can be used to analyze the music.
Zimmer typically delivers a soundtrack. He might have a few that’s he’s lazy about (I’d throw The Rock in here), perhaps they sound very similar (Gladiator < Pirates of the Caribbean, though both are effective in their own ways), but everyone has work they know they can coast through, right? The difference is that when there are works where Hans is hired to be Hans- not Crimson Tide Hans or DaVinci Code Hans, I’m talking about the drum-circle, experimental, jam session, noise-loving hippie- we get some really extraordinary work. Zimmer is unusual in how he understands the concept of “noise” and his willingness to work that into a traditional musical scheme. He’s not writing just to evoke what’s on the screen- he’s writing to provoke further thoughts you might have about a work of art.
Seeing him perform selected pieces from his career only emphasizes how much Zimmer really loves developing his concepts into actual music, how much he loves how the very idea of how sound can connect thoughts and take hold deep within. Hearing about his process and seeing his ability to enjoy the finished product, as well as seeing his appreciation for his fellow musicians and collaborators is, was, really special. We don’t often get to see this creative process- especially without DVD’s special features- and it’s just really awesome that Zimmer has enough star power to have this is available on Netflix.