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Section Header
Composed and Produced by:
David Julyan

Conducted by:
Nick Ingman

Orchestrated by:
Martyn Harry

Varèse Sarabande

Release Date:
May 14th, 2002

Also See:
The Prestige

Audio Clips:
1. Opening Titles (0:29):
WMA (191K)  MP3 (235K)
Real Audio (146K)

12. Walter's Apartment (0:28):
WMA (184K)  MP3 (226K)
Real Audio (140K)

16. Walter's Lake House (0:30):
WMA (193K)  MP3 (238K)
Real Audio (147K)

18. Closing Titles (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (150K)

Regular U.S. release.



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Sales Rank: 349008

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Buy it... if you seek a decent representation of the physical state of insomnia in musical form, dulling your senses with a haze of slightly off-kilter orchestral atmosphere.

Avoid it... if you require distinctly memorable constructs or instrumental applications in film music that engages your senses rather potentially putting you, ironically, to sleep.

Insomnia: (David Julyan) For the critically successful 2002 thriller Insomnia, acclaimed director Christopher Nolan produced a murder mystery that takes place in Alaska during the summer season. Thus, the sun never really dips below the horizon, and the 24-hour per day sunlight can cause insomnia for those who are not accustomed to it. Hence the title of the film and a substantial aspect of the detective-related plot. The production was actually a remake of a 1997 film that is often considered superior to this Hollywood version, though the storyline of Nolan's telling at least makes a concerted effort to remain true to the original circumstances. A cast of three Oscar winners is somewhat underutilized, however, not allowing any of them to shine particularly brightly. For the task of scoring Insomnia, Nolan once again teamed with composer David Julyan to produce a low key, relatively quiet musical effort that assists in maintaining the environment of the bleak landscape on film without intruding upon it. The works of Julyan have been most notably tied to those of Nolan (prior to the resurrection of the Batman franchise); both men were best known at the time for their collaborations on Following and the award-winning Memento more recently. The score shares more in common with the previous collaborations than just a single word title, because much of Insomnia is reminiscent of the hauntingly underplayed methodology utilized in Memento. For the budding fan group of Julyan's work, this score was a welcome extension of the same general style. Outside of his collaborations with Nolan, Julyan's filmography was sparse, leading many to consider him as a young wildcard who could have taken a career step in any direction from this point on. His badly underdeveloped score for The Prestige in 2006 didn't help his cause, however.

Perhaps working against him is the fact that his scores don't draw much attention to themselves outside of the context of their films, a situation that will kill the appeal of Insomnia for listeners seeking an engaging soundscape of at least minimal warmth. Instead of using any overt thematic development in Insomnia that could be particularly memorable in any of its slightly altered forms, Julyan slowly elaborates on a few lengthy progressions of disjointed chords to identify the work. This title theme, which really only reaches out to the listener in its end titles performance, spends a full hour of bubbling beneath the surface before it matures, aiding in the accompaniment of the music within the film but drawing several blanks throughout the first half of the score on album. Despite the title of "Kay's Theme," the motif suggested in the title is nothing more than half a minute of a meandering piano, wandering aimlessly in the fog and adhering to the bleak tone of the score for Insomnia as a whole. The music flirts with several levels of boredom throughout the first half of its album presentation, but its representation of the effects of the medical condition of insomnia grow in the second half. Each cue becomes steadily more pronounced in its progressions as the Al Pacino's detective wits become more distorted (though Julyan curiously avoids dissolving from harmony to disjointed dissonance as a tactic). The chopping strings of "Walter's Lake House" are the culmination of this transformation. There are plenty of synthesized effects to supplement the small to moderate orchestra in this task, including a use of the horns to sound like an approaching blast of a train whistle. The sound effect of a firing handgun is emulated in "Fog," intelligently matching the pivotal scene's action. Other similar electronic samplings were a staple of Julyan's early career as well, and these elements provide most of the suspenseful touches in the score.

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Instead of using any crashing or banging orchestral cues as, for instance, Christopher Young might prefer to utilize, Julyan inserts the samples at low volumes but with a sudden arrival, and that's what causes the score to maintain its uneasy edge. Julyan also succeeds in producing eerie music for particular scenes by ensuring that there is never true harmony in the score. This rule of thumb may simply seem universal for all suspense scores, but Julyan does remarkably well in soliciting an elevated performance from the orchestra that would be perfectly harmonious if not for one constantly off key group of players in its ranks. This technique, however, makes the score a burden on album. There are few scores that exhibit such a grim personality as this one, failing to provide a glimpse of sunlight despite the abundance of it in the picture. With this challenging personality in mind, the entirety of Insomnia, as a listening experience, will appeal to a very small, specific crowd of listeners who seek the dour mood of a subtle suspense score. It's not a piece of music that can be recommended to most listeners, not because it is too challenging, but instead because it is a work that is perfectly tailored for the film and should be enjoyed in that context instead. Normally, scores like this receive low ratings, but that is typically due to the fact that mind-numbing atmospheric material is usually applied to a film due to budget restrictions rather than artistic merit. In this case, Julyan represents the concept of a conflicted and increasingly agitated insomniac very well, and his approach therefore deserves due praise. There are three or four cues of chasing or action material that provides a sneak peek at the kind of edgy, extroverted music that Julyan could produce for other genres, and it would be both interesting and rewarding to hear him expand upon those ideas in another musical genre. The album for Insomnia, meanwhile, is aimed mostly at enthusiasts of the film and is potentially (and ironically) a good tool with which to tackle insomnia. *** Price Hunt: CD or Download

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 2.3 Stars
Smart Average: 2.46 Stars*
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   Alternative review
  Joep -- 6/9/05 (7:09 a.m.)
   The Score
  Steve Alpert -- 10/14/03 (10:48 a.m.)
   A Great Score!
  Luis L. -- 5/21/03 (6:16 p.m.)
   Remember "Fargo"?
  jan von villiams -- 6/20/02 (12:13 a.m.)
   Why so bad rating? *NM*
  Vestard -- 6/10/02 (12:59 p.m.)
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 Track Listings: Total Time: 57:06

• 1. Opening Titles/Blood Drips (2:47)
• 2. The Glacier (3:02)
• 3. Kay's Theme (3:41)
• 4. Kay's Bag (2:15)
• 5. Fog (5:12)
• 6. Will Hides the Gun (2:11)
• 7. Call to Hap's Widow (3:43)
• 8. Crimescene (2:23)
• 9. The Dead Dog (3:30)
• 10. Walter's Phone Call (3:22)
• 11. Kay's Funeral (1:19)
• 12. Walter's Apartment (3:36)
• 13. Ellie's Theme (1:50)
• 14. Will Confronts Walter (2:42)
• 15. Will's Confession (2:33)
• 16. Walter's Lake House (5:47)
• 17. "Let Me Sleep" (2:42)
• 18. Closing Titles (4:05)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert includes no extra information about the score or film.

  All artwork and sound clips from Insomnia are Copyright © 2002, Varèse Sarabande. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 5/31/02 and last updated 2/26/09. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2002-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.