by Dan Goldwasser
For his directorial debut, cinematographer Janusz Kaminski chose a project that, at the time of filming, seemed to be timely. Lost Souls is about the coming of the Anti-Christ on earth, and one woman's attempts to prevent this from happening. Sound familiar? Probably - but don't let that fact turn you off from seeing this film. While (conceptually) released a year later than it should have been, Lost Souls is actually a rather engaging film that puts last year's Stigmata and End of Days to shame.
Winona Ryder stars as "Maya Larkin", a woman who helps assist Father Lareaux (John Hurt) perform an exorcist on murderer Henry Birdson (John Diehl). The exorcist fails, but Birdson reveals that Satan will take over the body of a man, Peter Kelson (Ben Chaplin), very soon. Maya then spends much of the film trying to convince Kelson of what he will become, and they try to stop the transformation from taking place. Kaminski's direction is quite exhilarating, and there never seemed to be a dull moment in the film. While some might make comparisons to The Exorcist, this film is ultimately about the nature of faith.
The film is shot expertly by Cinematographer Mauro Fiore, who also shot the recently released Get Carter. The look of the film is a drastically low-saturated sepia toned one, and it adds to the grittiness and surrealism of the film. There are plenty of shots in the film that impressed me not only with their composition, but their technical challenges. The only problem I had with the film was the ending - I suppose it was bound to happen. The film spends such a great deal of energy building the suspense and plot as a means to an end, but unfortunately by the time we get to the climax, all of the energy has been spent. I suppose the ending they used was appropriate, but it still left me feeling a bit unsatisfied.
One thing that did not disappoint, however, was Jan A.P. Kaczmarek's (The Third Miracle, Total Eclipse) involved and moving score. Taking full advantage of the orchestra, Kaczmarek builds a well-rounded work that can be broken up into sections. There are the ominous dramatic tension building motifs that are performed by strings and woodwinds in a classical way that is very similar to the approach Howard Shore tends to score his works. There is the religious motifs, heard at the exorcism and at many dramatic moments - the full choir works perfectly (in an almost cliché way) and reminded me of a requiem mass.
There are softer piano and oboe motifs in the score, and even the hinting of a possible romantic theme comes through - but there is no romance in the film. The tension is always present throughout the score, and most of the cues are filled with a sense of foreboding. The editing and the score work perfectly hand-in-hand, and the result is an exciting cinematic experience.
While Lost Souls might not get the box office it deserves (due to an apparent shift in the public's craving for horror films), people should keep in mind that this is not a horror film. It is a suspenseful religious thriller with a great style and feel to it, and it owes much of that to the music. The film opens this Friday (the 13th!) and the soundtrack is due to be released by Varese Sarabande on October 17, 2000.
Thanks to Wendy Rutherford at New Line Cinema for her assistance.
All images © 2000 New Line Cinema