Alan Silvestri has had a long career, and during those thirty plus years he has brought us the music to accompany some of the greatest films ever made: Forrest Gump, Predator, The Abyss, the Back to the Future trilogy, to name only a tiny selection of his vast and impressive back catalogue.
For Welcome to Marwen, the military themes are quite evident through much of the soundtrack, focusing as they do on the story of Mark Hogencamp and his WWII era model town of Marwencol. The movie tells the true story of Mark, of how he was beaten near to death by five men back in the year 2000 for the crime of enjoying wearing woman’s shoes. On waking, he had lost much of his memory, his muscle coordination, his skills. Without an outlet for the anger he felt towards the world, he turned it to something useful and created the fictional town of Marwencol, a place where he could act out the anger and frustration he felt towards those who had robbed him of his life.
How do you approach a subject like that? Alan Silvestri has chosen a number of martial themes as the backbone of the soundtrack here, with both track 1 “Welcome to Marwen” and track 2 “You are Saved” both featuring martial motifs, lots of sharp, military drums and bugling horns along with the swelling strings and instrumental stings.
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Track 3 “Finally Got it Right” is a much more thoughtful and wistful piece than the ones that precede it, a brief respite before Track 4 “New Girl in Town” sees the return of those sharp, rattling drumbeats and we’re swept back to the war-torn streets of Marwencol. Track 5 “Deja Spills Some Milk” sounds like it could have been an off-cut from the soundtrack to the Predator with an odd little quirky motif of horns that shows up repeatedly in the Schwarzenegger soundtrack.
Track 6 “Magic” moves into something almost industrial, with a thumping, wheezing heartbeat and a menacing, metallic pounding running through the latter half of this track. Track 7 is a return to that more measured, mournful tone, a lonely piano carrying most of the weight until joined at the end of the track by soft strings before we crash again into those pounding, demanding drums that beat out the time throughout this film, the now familiar theme thundering out once again throughout track 8 “Rise and Shine”.
We continue to move between the two sides of this soundtrack as we move to track 9 “Saved”, switching between events in Marwencol and the real world. Again the drums are replaced with strings and soft wind instruments, conjuring up comparisons to the feel of the Forrest Gump soundtrack in places.
Track 10 and “Never Love You the Way I Do” is another escapee from the jungles of Arnie and Co, a short, menacing little track quite at odds with what is suggested by the track title.
Skipping over track 11 “One Big Misunderstanding” which is almost entirely a drum solo, and track 12 “Goodnight Girls” which is a return to the more wistful strings but is otherwise a somewhat unremarkable track, next up we have track 13 “Hate Crime” which is a slow building swirl of violins and distant, muted drums.
Track 14 “Beautiful Moon”and Track 15 “Crippled by Fear” continue this darker turn in the music, moving away from the overtly brash themes that dominated the first half of the soundtrack for something far softer. Tracks 15 and 16 “Hogie vs Meyer Part 1/2” see a return to those now familiar martial themes and it really is difficult to avoid comparisons to the Predator soundtrack again and again!
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Track 17 “Wake Up Sweetheart” is another, unfortunately, somewhat unremarkable track of the same thready, wistful strings and wind we’ve seen before. The same applies to track 18 “They Can’t Hurt Me”. Despite, or perhaps because of, repeated listens to this soundtrack, they become very difficult to tell apart after a while. At first they make a welcome change of pace from the relentless drums but by the end of the soundtrack they’ve all started to blend together into one.
Track 19 and the score reaches its heroic, uplifting denouement with “Marwencol” and it is a welcome change from the rest of the soundtrack, being neither as blandly similar as the softer tracks, nor as jarringly obtuse as the martial ones. The soundtrack is rounded off with track 20 “Welcome to Marwencol End Credits” which is, as one might expect, a sort of “greatest cuts” of the various themes that recur throughout the rest of the soundtrack, shifting from gentle piano to drums and back again before ending with that by-now VERY familiar blast of horns.
It is difficult to recommend this soundtrack as something to listen to or purchase outside of the movie itself. The tracks begin to merge into one another after a while, and the constant reminders of other, better soundtracks will likely only leave a listener wondering why they aren’t listening to that one instead.
A workmanlike effort from Alan Silvestri, but he is capable of so much better.