Listening to Rachel Portman's score, you find yourself wondering if she misread the assignment sheet and thought she was working for an adaptation of the Dickens classic made by Masterpiece Theater, not one by troubled, thoughtful cinéaste Roman Polanski. The music here is lovely. Portman, whose other works include Nicholas Nickleby
, is very skilled at evoking 19th-centure ambiance without falling into pure mimicky of that period's classical composers. But "lovely" isn't necessarily what one might expect from Oliver Twist.
It's all very quiet. How could something titled "Escape from Fagin" be that subdued?
And yet so it is. "The Murder" reprises similar themes with the same results. The Prague Philharmonic (a popular orchestra who's recorded everything from Dr. Strangelove: Music from the Films of Stanley Kubrick to the heavy strains of black metal band Dimmu Borgir) does its best, but one wishes for more depth throughout. Polanski is never afraid to stare straight into the darkness; Portman should have felt empowered to do the same. --Elisabeth Vincentelli