The score/soundtrack can make or break a film.
Music has incredible power. I’ve thought about this a lot in my life, even before I grew up to realise that I’m just a music nerd and some people (weirdos) think they can take or leave music. These people don’t understand the power music holds over our subconscious.
Artists and labels spend tens of thousands of dollars on music videos that may only ever be streamed online. This is because a good music video can convince you of the worth of an artist. Remember Outkast’s huge 2003 hit “Hey Ya!”? I distinctly remember someone saying to me, “Have you heard the new Outkast single? It’s so cool. He does this kind of rap-singing combo thing. It’s great!” I heard it and was vaguely impressed.
And then I saw the video clip:
Yep, it’s sitting on more than 22 million YouTube views to date. Pure visual exuberance. It’s contagious. I went out the next day and bought the album.
Applying this principle to motion pictures, imagine the effect music can have on a film. It doesn’t even need to be overly dramatic. Look at Wes Anderson’s films. I’m talking The Royal Tenenbaums. I’m talking The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. I’m talking that one with all the hot guys and Natalie Portman and the train.
Mr. Anderson is clever. He pays a man called Randall Poster to be his music director. Randall knows his stuff. He selects the best songs you’ve never heard of by Bob Dylan or The Kinks and puts them alongside classic songs you have heard but forgotten about. When this well-chosen soundtrack is paired with amazing cinematography and actors, the end result is brilliance. The songs chosen can give an automatic sensation of things that would take minutes to communicate with dialogue: nostalgia, heartbreak, young love, hate, guilt, romance, any season you can think of. You’d be amazed how much a well-placed track can alter the audience’s mood without you even noticing.
At the other end of the scale you have horror and thriller films, which obviously rely a little less subliminally on the soundtracks to accompany the suspenseful moments, and to ensure the big moments feel as climactic as they are visually intended to be. Can you imagine the shower scene from Psycho without those screeching strings? For that matter, what about Wayne’s World without “Bohemian Rhapsody”? Trainspotting without “Lust for Life”?
I wonder if actual suspense was capable of being created in the day of silent films. I wonder if they used to hire musicians to create music behind the movie screen for the live audience.
I reckon they did. Definitely.