Hans Zimmer's melancholy yet romantic The House of the Spirits captures the magic realism of Isabel Allende's source novel with a clarity absent from the accompanying film adaptation. Accenting his brooding synthesizers and ghostly strings with elements of South American music, the composer brings to life the tragic downfall of an aristocratic Chilean family with uncommonly poignant precision. Zimmer confronts head-on the human suffering at the heart of the film, and at times his richly textured themes seem to marinate in sadness. He never stoops to heart-tugging pathos or histrionics, however, instead instilling The House of the Spirits with a dignity perfectly matched to its characters.
Although Hans Zimmer receives nominal credit, Tears of the Sun is in fact a collaborative effort featuring contributions from the composer's Media Ventures colleagues including Lebo M., Steve Jablonsky, and Heitor Pereira - the end result channels some unexpected ethnic influences into an otherwise by the book war film score reliant more on its emotional scope than its action themes. While African percussion and chants enliven several cues, Tears of the Sun is above all dominated by a palpable sense of melancholy - little here echoes the heroic, larger than life scale of war scores past, and all vestiges of patriotism are superseded by post-9/11 angst. It's certainly unexpected, especially given Zimmer's affection for bombast, but it works.