Hans Zimmer: The Battle
Hans Zimmer was approached to compose the soundtrack for Ridley Scott’s popular film Gladiator in 2000. The film follows main character Maximus Decimus Meridius as he experiences slavery and seeks revenge on the corrupted leader Commodus. Zimmer’s music reflects this with bold orchestrations, memorable melodies and typical Zimmer harmonic language.
The Battle serves as the soundtrack for the first fight seen in the film, and is an epic accompaniment to the drama happening on screen. Opening with horns playing a triumphant theme, the percussion aptly accompany which sets up the war-like atmosphere. Interestingly this is interrupted by an interlude played by a solo guitar, which is an unusual choice for Zimmer. A male voice enters with an ominous line that then enters a musical dialogue with the guitar.
A build up in texture is created as the orchestra begins to build up tension. Variations of the main melody are passed around the orchestra, from the triumphant trumpets to the bold and powerful string section, Zimmer’s theme is ever-developing. The strict tempos accentuate the war theme in this soundtrack, with the lower brass being utilised by Zimmer effectively.
Zimmer’s extremes of dynamics also add to the drama and tension of the battle. Excitement is built through intricate orchestrations and bold writing for naturally loud instruments. After this explosive section the music comes right back down as all instruments leave the mix until we are left with a string orchestra and soprano voice. The soprano sings a solemn melody, with no words, which gives us a sense of the devastation left behind from the battle.
The poignant ending completely opposes the vigorous and intense music before it, which adds to the overall drama of the soundtrack.
Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack for Gladiator is a powerful statement that uniquely represents the trials and tribulations of what happens in the film. From war to love, pain and revenge, The Battle is an exciting and vivacious work for orchestra that really encapsulates the themes of the film.
*This blog is part of the ‘German-Speaking Musical Greats Project’ 2019-20