I know that this isn’t a fresh topic but more and more I find my movie appreciation is influenced by my memory of the music in the films. Did you know that the song that symbolized (cemented) the relationship between Almásy and Katharine Clifton in “The English Patient” was “Where or When,” a song about déjà vu? (You may probably judge and condemn me for that prosaic observation but, what can I do.) Everyone knows that the feelings the music generates can sometimes linger after the images. Maybe those feelings don’t go to the subconscious like the images do? Georges Delerue, Ennio Morricone, Nino Rota, David Raksin, Toru Takemitsu have created scores that make you hunger for the films they came out of. Do the scores they create fill the holes and how much does this contribute to the finished film?
I’m a postmodern so for me music is at the same level of script, editing, cinematography and acting, i would even say it’s more important than acting for me.
And it’s always better the silence or the music than a silly dialogue.
I know what you mean but I think that if a movie has great music like Casino or Goodfellas or Once Upon a Time in America (which is my all time favourite film) it will boost the film. If it has bad music it doesn’t make much difference.
I think the music matters a great deal—both positively and negatively. In horror, action, thrillers or big, epic films, music can be really crucial. Films like Star Wars, Jaws or Psycho would be diminished without the music.
Music is a great manipulator of an audience, and with just a simple cue, the audience can be directed to a feeling.
In the right hands, music can be a perfect tool, in the wrong hands it can ruin a moment and a film.
An essential tool of filmmaking on par with writing, editing, acting, sound design and cinematography.
In a film like DRIVE, by Nicholas Winding Refn, the music was as important as the characters. And just imagine Pulp Fiction without Miserlou erupting at the beginning of the movie, recorded by Dick Dale. Or JAWS…enough said. Music cues emotions. Think of John Carpenter’s Halloween…you knew trouble was coming when you heard that piano line come in. And then I think of THE SHINING where the sounds in the room were part of the music (Jack throwing the baseball against the wall, the boy riding his big wheel through the sections of carpet and hard flooring).
^Exactly. Music is HUGE for me- almost all of my very favorite films have songs or scores that I enjoy listening to by themselves.
Music, when used well in the complete soundscape, is very effective in film. I don’t think you’ll find many people who will disagree with this.
Now, I will say that some music in film does not translate well if the images are taken away (for me Drive is a prime example) and some music that works well without the images, fails to provide any substance whatsoever in the film (I think of the use of Wagner in every part of Melancholia besides the overture). Like really everything else in film, context is paramount.
In Ang Lee’s The Ice Storm, music was crucial, it was like it was saying what the characters were not. Mychael Danna’s score was subtle and smart, with some nice twists.
@Scottie Ferguson I know what you mean. I have a whole playlist of my favourite movie themes and most of them come from my favourite movies
One of the reasons why I cringe even at the mention of Scarface is because I find the music choices appalling. Which is too bad because Al Pacino’s acting in that movie is so superb. But i think that movie is a perfect case, at least for me, of musical choices turning what could be a great movie sour… Oh, and Once Upon a Time in America is such a good example of a great movie with great music. The collaboration of Sergio Leone’s visuals and storytellng with Ennio Morricone’s musical compositions is one to be noted.
@Brad Murphy I agree with you completely! Once Upon a Time in America is my favourite all time film and my favourite soundtrack.
I personally think that apart from Once Upon a Time in America, Martin Scorsese is the director that uses pieces of music the most effectively, just watch Casino or Goodfellas and you will know what I mean, although some do think that he overuses it, I do not
@Joey T Not to get sidetracked here, but my problem with Casino and Goodfellas, though I love many of Scorsese’s other pictures, is not so much his overuse of music, but overuse of voice over to push along the plot.
I loved it
Oh yeah, and what about Quentin Tarantino? Pulp Fiction is riddled with oldies that i would not know if i’d never seen that movie. Every time i hear “Son of a Preacher Man” on the radio I turn it on full blast.
Well to be honest Brad I am not a huge fan of Pulp Fiction (sorry for darkening the mood), and I am only 12 so I wasn’t really around then if you know what I mean!
great scene from Pulp Fiction…I can see Uma Thurman dancing to that song…
It is a very good scene
haha. Fair enough
But surely if you turn up the music in the scene when Uma Thurman is dancing you have to see her snorting coke and oozing out mucus in full volume?
“In the right hands, music can be a perfect tool, in the wrong hands it can ruin a moment and a film.”
Guys like Aronofsky are not so good using it, but Leone or WKW are masters here. How about 2001 without music? even those disturbing voices are necessary to understand the whole thing.
Imagine Star Wars if Miles Davis did the score… think about it… ehh?.. probably be pretty awesome if you ask me.
Don’t you think it’s kind of cheap that music should carry so much weight? That you’d have a film in your head because of the music? I’m surprised that so few films don’t use it. I don’t like that I should be thinking about a stylistic flourish. Unless it’s somehow ingrained into the film’s form like Godard’s in Histoire(s) du cinéma (sometimes). Something that feels right and is necessary, though it doesn’t always have to feel right.
I recently had the crazy ‘80s techno-ish soundtrack from L’Amour braque in my head, and I couldn’t wait to watch it again. But I was thinking that that’s hardly anything. It’s not the film, though the visual and musical style is damn entertaining.
I think that not having music in a film is as much a stylistic choice as having music. And as for cheapening a film, I don’t see that at all. The music is as much an integral part of the film as is the visuals, the characters, the script. That. to me, would be like saying a movie should only use natural lighting. Not that there’s anything wrong with natural lighting, but that is up to the director and his vision.
I don’t think it cheapens the film. It just seems to me that the effect of music could be achieved using something more integral to filmmaking. Wouldn’t it be better if you could achieve the same effect without music which has its own value? Of course the best directors use music as a separate tool in relation to the images and everything, instead of letting great music ‘save’ the inferior filmmaking.
Music is rarely integrated into a film on a deep level. It’s usually just something on the surface that creates a feeling. I just think that it and everything else should be made important to the film. You said that it’s as integral as those other things. Well that depends on how much the filmmaker makes it integral. I think it’s rare. I think that if you add anything to a film, you should weave it into the whole on a more than “it feels right” level. The film should collapse in every possible way without it.
I find music to be frighteningly important. At it’s best it does more than just provide atmosphere. I think the beginning of The Social Network. After Mark gets turned down and runs back to his room. Imagine if the music had been a big John Williams melody or a song with lyrics. It would fall apart, telling you too much about what is happening. But with the score the way it was, the simple keyboard melody backed by light but driving strings, it makes you consider more about Mark’s character (at least it did for me). I would say the same for the final piece in Babel. Something about the repetition in the strings deepens the themes of the film without commenting on them.
At it’s worst it telegraphs feelings to the audience. This is the reason I was so disappointed by The King’s Speech. The most powerful moment in the film is ruined by the music. Colin Firth’s character is telling Geoffrey Rush’s character about the immense pain of his childhood. He stammers and Rush tells him to sing it. He sings “And then she wouldn’t feed me.” A painful line to be sure, made all the more painful by hearing the character try to sing it. Then in comes the violin melody in a minor key, and the quality of the script and acting is suddenly shit on. The scene was already sad, we didn’t need the score to tell us this. Some of the worst use of music is in the HBO show The Newsroom. Every single time a speech or conversation becomes slightly inspirational (which Sorkin makes sure is often), the score kicks in to make sure the audience knows it.
At it’s best it thickens or even provides themes. At it’s worst, it telegraphs themes to the point that every other aspect of the film, well done or not, is ruined.
I haven’t seen any of those movies. I don’t understand how a simple bit of music can provide themes which are intellectually understood. All of it seems superficial.
There’s an interesting use of music in Punch Drunk Love when Sandler is always running nervously around his work to this strange percussive music as the camera seems to interrogate him. It heightens the feeling of anxiety. BUT: we could already see that he was anxious and nervous, it’s what the film is about. Thus and so: “we didn’t need the score to tell us this.” Zulawski said, on the L’Amour braque commentary coincidentally, a Polish saying about not buttering your bread twice. No unnecessary layers.
The question is this: Which film has the most necessary use of music?