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Cinema Sounds: Good Films, Great Soundtracks


Cinema Sounds: Good Films, Great Soundtracks


A note, whispered gently, speaks of beauty, of life, of time reaching its end. It is like ash, weightless and dark. It moves you quietly through her frailty. Suddenly, a violin calmly breathes and you hear her pain. She is dying, and you are with her, at that moment she comes to terms with her own mortality. It speaks simple truths; death prepares a place for us with every fleeting sound. Yet, just then, we are again weightless and we experience the exquisite joy of the moment. We, with her, are the mourning sounds of keys and strings in concert, tuned by the ethereal voice of eternity. And yet, we are again reminded of the enchanting power of life and the sin of squandering any second of it not reveling in the things that make us happy...All of this, the pain, joy, beauty, fear was felt through the transcendent power of a film's score/soundtrack...

I wanted to write this blog to share some thoughts on two of my favorite things in this world: Film and Music, and how that marriage can break through the confines of its particular movie and make lasting impressions on our lives.


I’ve never experienced anything as surreal and moving as the above, until I watched The Fountain. Or rather, until I heard the song: The Last Man. The painfully beautiful motif that seems to cyclically mirror life and death, pain and joy, hope and despair is nothing short of amazing. Listening to the melody come and go, it eerily forces you to juxtapose those feelings in your mind and you are immediately taken on your own experience through those emotions. That is the power of a great score/soundtrack! It is one that transcends the boundaries of its own film and hauntingly seeps into the fabric of your mind and allows you to essentially transpose your own movie, your life's scenes, into its notes. It is absolutely chilling.

I recommend you watch this movie solely for the way the soundtrack elevates the quality of the film. For as good a job both Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz do in this Darren Aronofsky film, I still found it to be a bit of a convoluted mess. Although, it is worth mentioning, that the sequences set during the Spanish Inquisition are the best pairing of the film’s visuals, the actor’s performances, and the music. All together, they evoke a certain fantastical mysticism that made me wish that they had filmed the entire movie in this time period. But, perhaps you will enjoy it more than I did with or without the score. So, check it out nonetheless.


Another example of this, but to a lesser degree (for me), was the use of music in Drive. Here though, the use of licensed songs and the film’s score (original music written solely for the film’s story), are the dynamic force driving your experience in the movie. Working in tandem with the often quiet and reserved performances of the actors on screen, the soundtrack acts as the guiding lines brushed on a barren canvas that is devoid of much dialogue. With words from songs, we learn more about the characters, their motivations, their history, their emotions, than we do when they actually speak. There is a brilliant symphony taking place between silence and sound coming from the actors and the soundtrack. Each serves its purpose separately, but neither is ever caught in the maligned dissonance of distraction or overstatement. It is the perfect balance of visual and audio expression.

Also great is the music’s ability to give its environment life. There is something very “Los Angeles at midnight” about Nightcall by Kavinsky and/or how Under Your Spell by Desire effectively breathes life to an L.A. summer day. There is something very tangible about those songs when placed in context with their particular scenes. You sense the neon lights smoothly poured onto your skin. You feel the heavy smog mixed with summer’s sun fill your lungs. There is an element of electricity, grit, and life. There is a very palpable pulse in the music that is not only heard or seen, it is felt. So, this one I would recommend you go see for both the soundtrack and the film. This is an overall great movie that allows both the visual and audio to shine equally.

My Top Five Soundtracks:

Below are my top five soundtracks of all time. They're not in any particular order because I don't think I'd realistically be able to rank them.  

1. The Star Wars, Trilogy; Composer: John Williams

  • Notable Song: The Hologram/Binary Sunset

2. The Fountain; Composer: Clint Mansell

  • Notable Song: The Last Man

3. Drive; Composer: Cliff Martinez

  • Notable Song:  Nightcall by Kavinsky, Lovefoxxx

4. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly; Composer: Ennio Morricone

  • Notable Song: The Ecstasy of Gold

5. UP; Composer: Michael Giacchino

  • Notable Song: Stuff We Did

Let me know what you think. What are some of your favorite soundtracks and why?

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Later kids!