Composer of ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’ Score Dead at 81

Wojciech+KilarWojciech Kilar, who composed my favorite film score ever, for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, died in his hometown of Katowice, Poland, on Sunday at the age of 81 after a long illness.

Kilar’s haunting, otherworldly score for Francis Ford Coppola’s film was a major contributor to the menacing atmosphere of the 1992 version of the Dracula story, which starred Gary OldmanWinona Ryder and Anthony Hopkins.

The music was at once heavy, dramatic and unsettling but also at points light and romantic, befitting the mood shifts in the flawed but wonderful film. Compare the prickly, skin-crawling horror of the atonal passages that morphed into boisterous timpani pounding and trumpets during the attack of Dracula’s brides to the music box-like simplicity and innocence of Lucy’s theme. And then there was the peerless main theme that swells with the power of love, hatred and revenge!

The Polish composer fittingly scored Roman Polanski’s Oscar-winning The Pianist, about a Polish musician, and another of my favorite scores, for Polanski’s supernatural thriller The Ninth Gate — a terrific, little-seen movie that also features one of Johnny Depp’s best performances (second only to his turn in Ed Wood.)

BSDKilar was heavily inspired by Polish folk music and religious hymns, which probably helped his melodies feel so weighty and dramatic.

And while he wrote wonderful film scores, Kilar always put composing symphonies and concertos for concert halls ahead of Hollywood. In fact, he turned down the chance to score Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy to pursue his primary love.

“In a movie, music is just one of the many elements,” Kilar was quoted as saying. “Serious music, which I compose, is signed with my name only, and I get real pleasure from that.”

Movie fans, and his fans in particular, also got real pleasure from his talent.

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