Do You Hear What I Hear?
The Golden Globes have past, and the Oscars are upon us, how am I supposed to focus on my PCTV assignments, or music right now when I’m too busy catching up on watching all the nominees? (Yes, I have been a bad movie goer this past year)
Wait, what did you say? There is music in film!? Two of my favorite things wrapped into one. Bear with me. I’m not a writer, but because I am passionate about both film and music, I’m going to try to make this work.
When you think of music in film, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? For me it’s a soundtrack. Growing up, my family wasn’t big into music, but we did watch a lot of movies, and getting soundtracks of all my favorite movies from the 90’s was a big deal for me. I got to branch out of the typical music my parents let me listen to, and this was way better, so I hit the jack pot there. One of my absolute favorite soundtracks was 10 Things I Hate About You. The soundtrack was fun, memorable and they interpreted the soundtrack into the films reality, which you don’t see that often unless it’s a band or concert film.
Other soundtracks put you into a certain decade and let you get involved with the current reality of the film, like Blow or Boogie Nights. This gets your mind in the right place with the when and where, and it’s just damn good music for you to sing along to.
Let’s get to my favorite type of soundtrack, the type of soundtrack that uses artists and songs that are perfectly placed in a decade years before it’s time, you know like in Marie Antoinette or A Knights Tale. It’s truly spectacular. Who decided to put the White Stripes, New Order, Siouxie and the Banshees and The Cure on a soundtrack, and fit it into a world that is set in the 18th century?
A freaking genius (Sofia Copella), that’s who.
Back to Marie Antoinette, the soundtrack isn’t just amazing because of the new wave rock n roll music they used, but because of the representation of that music. It’s all about being young, experimenting and finding who you are. Marie Antoinette does that, but we see and hear how even though she has everything, including the world at her figure tips, one can feel lost and stuck, yearning to go after ones dreams. A universal concern no matter what century.
And what about the films that have little to no music at all? In No Country For Old Men, the Coen Brothers use of an extremely minimal score has the same effect music usual does. Instead of using music for suspense, they used silence. If you’ve seen the movie, you know it keeps you on your toes from start to finish, and the music, or lack thereof, influences it heavily. As a viewer it’s kind of unnerving, all the silence, but it adds so much to the story. I mean seriously, think about it, you have this guy who commits brutal crimes based on the flip of a coin, you feel as if you are in his mind, it’s startling yes, but extremely effective.
Speaking of emotional aspects of music that help enhance your viewing experience altogether, let’s talk about Big Little Lies. You’ve seen it right? Or at least heard the extremely popular soundtrack/music that it was praised for having? The show was an emotional roller coaster from the get go, who the heck died? Who the heck killed said person who supposedly died? Why does his little girl have such spectacular taste in music? Why didn’t I have her spectacular taste in music when I was her age?
There is more to the story line then just a murder and a murderer. We had topics of sexual and mental abuse, infidelity, betrayal, resentment, denial, and you know what helped cater to this crazy roller coaster some call life? You better believe it was the music. A lot of Charles Bradley, Irma Thompson, Elvis Presley (to name just a few) help play a roll in the characters life, showing up at the right time for the right character.
Ultimately, the songs speak for the characters.
Two songs, which I thought played a big part for the scene, the characters, and even us viewers really stood out to me:
The Temptations “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” – A song we hear over and over again, because Ziggy, one of the young boys becomes obsessed with this song. The first time he is introduced to it, he is with his friend, and her parents are recording them as they have a dance party. While the song continues to play, we are now with his mother, Jane, just as she is getting pulled over by a police officer, having just visited a man she thought could be the man who sexually assaulted her. We see Ziggy constantly watching videos of this song, learning dance moves, and trying to get his mom to hear it. He is a boy without a father, he wants more information from his mom, and wants her to hear it. This song represents both their frustrations, and their reality.
Agnes Obel “September Song” – Another recurring song in the series, but largely in the finale at the end of the film after the murder has occurred. We start the sequence off with Chloe, the little girl playing the tune on the piano, then jump from the funeral of the deceased to the woman and their children playing on the beach, then finally the scene that tells us who killed who. For me, this was one of the most musically impactful scenes. No dialogue, no words in the song, just the emotion and intensity of the keyboard with a juxtaposition of what we see on the screen. Quite powerful stuff. This song, by itself, is quite emotional, but paired with a scene that reveals what the viewer has been waiting to see for an entire season, that’s something you have to see for yourself to truly feel the emotion conveyed. Honestly, it’s what I imagine actually happening in real life, everything happening at once, people are screaming, but you can’t hear anything, and everything is in slow motion, but happening so quick. It’s your worst nightmare and you’re not sure how you got to where you are now.
Sometimes there’s more to music in film than just a good soundtrack. The music in a film helps serve as motivation for the characters, helps tell us how to feel emotionally, and drives the story forward. Sometimes we might not catch it, but you feel it, don’t deny it!
Do you agree? Let us know your thoughts on music in film!