Soundtracks can make or break a film by mirroring and strengthening the action on the screen, bringing another dimension of emotionality the storyline and helping the audience become immersed in the scenes as they play out.
It’s no wonder soundtracks are a hugely important piece of making a film and skilled composers like John Williams, although not as famous as their director equivalents like Steve Spielberg and George Lucas, have become huge names and have earned a great deal of success for the their contribution for franchises like Star Wars and Indiana Jones.
Many of the best scenes in films are musical ones, (think of Eric Clapton’s Layla belting over the revealing final scene of Goodfellas or the Phantom Menace’s final fight scene accompanied by an operatic John Williams score. The best film soundtracks also stay with you long after the film has finished.
Here are some of my favourites.
Taxi Driver (1976) – Bernard Herrmann
“ May 10th. Thank God for the rain which has helped wash away the garbage and trash off the sidewalks. I’m workin’ long hours now, six in the afternoon to six in the morning. Sometimes even eight in the morning, six days a week. “
Scorsese’s fourth film is a nightmarish cult classic that depicts the life of a twisted and lonely ant-hero and his spiral into madness in a gritty and run down New York in the 70’s.
The film noir depicts a obsessed and frustrated Robert De Niro’s story playing out in a New York which is dirty, dark and deprived. Legendary composer Bernard Herrmann does a perfect job on the score, which managed to perfectly reflect the toiling psychopathy of the central character and the darkness of his environment, whilst the main theme that runs through the film juxtaposes the dark on screen action with a sultry yet haunting saxophone theme.
Amelie (2001) – Yann Tiersen
Apparently director Jean-Pierre Jeunet first heard Yann Tiersen’s through one of his production assistant’s who played it in his car as they were driving to a set. Jeunet immediately bought Tiersen’s back catalogue and commissioned several works for the film.
And it’s easy to see why when you see the film. Like the film, Tiersen’s music is inescapably French, whilst being innocent and idealistic. The film is about a young girl who leaves her sheltered upbringing to find her place in the world through giving love and improving the live of those around her. Tiersen’s piano and accordion compositions perfectly compliment the youthful innocence of a young woman finding delight in the small things in life.
Trainspotting (1996) – Various
Danny Boyle’s adaption of the Irvine Welsh book of the same name was scored by a soundtrack that characterised the reckless young energy of the onscreen characters, switching between bashful arrogance, hedonism and sneering rebellion.
Brit pop, techno, rock and dance music from the 80’s in 90’s are the order of the day to reflect the listening tastes of the characters on screen, and the soundtrack received a fantastic reception, whereupon a second version of the soundtrack had to be released to feature the full complement of songs that didn’t make the final cut.
Iggy Pop’s “Lust for life” blasting out of Ewan McGregor’s Iconic monologue “choose life” epitomises the attitude of this film.