Inspired by this BBC Radio 2 article about Mark Kermode’s favourite electronic songs from films, I thought I’d share here a few (not all, because that would indeed be a very long list) of my favourite songs (electronic and otherwise) from films, because music is indeed such an important part of filmmaking and experiencing film.
The Graduate: Simon & Garfunkel – “The Sound of Silence”
Why: The Graduate isn’t a happy film, and the ending is incredibly bittersweet. Even though we know that both Elaine and Ben are better off being away from Mrs Robinson, perhaps being together is not the best thing for them, as they only knew each other for a day before “falling in love.” I think “The Sound of Silence” illustrates that feeling in a very interesting way, in the very end of the film, when both Ben and Elaine finally realise what they just did and that maybe it wasn’t the best thing for them. As the song plays over them and as their smiles fade, we are left with an unsettling feeling that carries on way after the credits finish to roll.
The Social Network: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross – “In Motion”
Why: I love The Social Network. It is one of my favourite David Fincher films because it has such a unique look to it (it’s sort of blue-filtered rather than the usual yellow from Fincher’s other features, for instance) and it was the first time Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross worked in his films (followed by The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Gone Girl) to create beautiful, gripping, atmospheric sounds that resonated beautifully with the story being told. In this film, they went mostly electronic, and “In Motion” is my favourite song from the score, because it has the overarching piano motif that carries out through the entire movie, following Mark as he buries himself deeper in his ambition.
But another piece that I absolutely love from the score, which I highly recommend you check out, is their version of ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King’ by Edvard Grieg. It plays during the “Winklevi” twins’ rowing competition and it is absolutely gorgeous over the beautifully shot sequence.
The Guest: Love and Rockets: “Haunted When the Minutes Drag”
Why: The Guest was a surprising hit for me. I wasn’t expecting to love that film so much (as you can read on my review,) and the soundtrack in particular was a wonderful surprise. It was very Drive-esque, with 80s-sounding songs and tons of synth, which I absolutely love. But this song in particular has been my obsession for the past week or so. It’s as unexpected as it is cool, much like the film itself.
(500) Days of Summer: Wolfmother – “Vagabond”
Why: Perhaps the underdog of the film’s carefully curated soundtrack, behind Regina Spektor, The Smiths, Carla Bruni and Simon & Garfunkel, Wolfmother’s “Vagabond” is my favourite from the soundtrack not because it’s the best, but because the sequence in which we hear the song is made to look like a music video.
Because the director Marc Webb has a background in music videos, it really is no surprise that his feature films would retain a bit of that, and this particular part of the movie definitely illustrates his true calling. It is a beautiful sequence, only couple of minutes long, but it does more for Tom’s character development than a dialogue would.
The Breakfast Club: Simple Minds – “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”
Why: A legend. A classic. The perfect song to end a film about misfits coming together in spite their differences. I saw Simple Minds live a couple of years ago, and the whole crowd sang along to this in such a phenomenal way. It’s more tan a song, it’s a generation-defining anthem. I’d put it next to “Hey Jude” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” in the List of Songs to Always Sing Along. But most importantly, it sums up the film, and much like Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence,” it also implies a facet of melancholy in the film, that the ending is probably not going to be a happy one, if he Judd Nelson is punching the air in freeze frame because the got the girl.
Fight Club: The Pixies – “Where Is My Mind?”
Why: Fight Club is one of my favourite films of all time. I love what it says about the late 90s male psyche and how it shows the ugly side of masculinity. It’s an oft-misunderstood film (like 500 Days of Summer) but I believe that even today it has a lot to say. The Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind?” plays at the very end, over the sounds of the skyscrapers exploding as the Narrator holds Marsha’s hand and says “you met me at a very strange time in my life.” It again sums up the film in such a simple but effective way, and you can’t help but fall in love with the guitar at the beginning of the song.
Drive: Kavinsky & Lovefoxx – “Nightcall”
Why: Timeless and suave, Kavinsky’s “Nightcall” is the perfect song to introduce the film and this character. As we drive through Los Angeles at night in Ryan Gosling’s car, the street lights of the city rushing by, we are taken to a fairy tale. It’s almost magical, the way the lights are reflected on the car and on Gosling’s profile. And there’s something almost ethereal about this song, especially Lovefoxx’s vocals, like a prayer. The 80s synthpop sound matches perfectly with the tone of the film, and there’s not way to escape being hypnotised by it.
Away We Go: Alexi Murdoch – “All My Days”
Why: This is perhaps a lesser known film, but it’s one of my favourites. A pre-Skyfall Sam Mendes film about a couple expecting a baby, trying to find the perfect city where to move. The soundtrack is almost entirely original songs by Alexi Murdoch (save on Bob Dylan song,) but “All My Days” is the most beautiful. It plays, again, at the end of the film, when Burt (John Krasinski) and Verona (Maya Rudolph) finally find their perfect home. They are sat on the porch, looking out into the horizon, thinking about their future, their child, and it is a joyous and melancholy moment as the song plays in the background. I would recommend listening to the entire soundtrack if you can.
Only Lovers Left Alive: SQÜRL – “Spooky Action at a Distance”
Why: Honestly, it was really difficult choosing my favourite out of all the amazing tracks from this soundtrack. Jim Jarmusch has a talent for picking the perfect songs for his films, and Only Lovers Left Alive is no different. But I think “Spooky Action at a Distance” is perfect because it creates the character of Adam in a non-obvious way. Through music we discover all of Adam’s melancholy as a true Romantic. But also how eccentric he is, because the song is so experimental and non-linear. It’s a truly outstanding piece of music.
Cloud Atlas: Ton Tykwer: “The Cloud Atlas Sextet for Orchestra”
Why: If you fell in love with Frobisher and Sixmith in Cloud Atlas, welcome to the club. Frobisher (Ben Whishaw) is one of the most interesting characters in the story, and when Halle Berry in the 70s discovers this piece of music, we see how much of a genius he was, and that makes his death even more tragic (if Sixmith’s cries after finding him dead in the bathtub wasn’t enough [sniffs].) Tom Tykwer did a marvellous job conveying the sense of magic and wonder of the multi-century story into one beautiful piece of music.
Ratatouille: Camille – “La Festin”
Why: Ratatouille is my second favourite Disney film — after The Lion King — mostly because of the food porn. I’m way into beautiful-looking food in films (other examples of cinematic food porn: Chef, I Am Love) but the story in Ratatouille is also really sweet. The little rat being such a foodie, learning how to cook, helping out his friend. Truly an underdog story, and those I love even more than food porn. And this song has an uplifting spirit which makes me think that all dreams CAN come true in Paris, even if you are a tiny rat. Anyone can cook, and isn’t that fantastic?
Moonrise Kingdom: Françoise Hardy – “Le Temps de l’amour”
Why: If you know me or have listened to the Filmology live podcasts (back in September!) then you are probably aware that I’m a huge Wes Anderson geek. I love Moonrise Kingdom because of the sheer nostalgia of it. It retains that inherent Andersonian style, but it also has a lovely sense of pure nostalgic wonder, especially as Sam and Suzy make run away and set up camp at the beach. It throws back to The Royal Tenebaums when Margo and Richie run away to the Museum of Natural History, but it is much sweeter, because these two children are in love, they want to get married and they dance at the beach to French music. You almost want them to succeed, even though it’s slightly silly, because Anderson makes you believe that they are doing the right thing and that it’s totally plausible for two children to run away and live at the beach forever (maybe he was inspired by Blue Lagoon?)
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou: Seu Jorge – “Starman”
Why: This is my favourite Wes Anderson film. It’s strange, over-the-top, it features Cate Blanchett. But one of the main reasons why it’s my favourite is actually the music itself. Throughout the film, one of the crew members of the ship played by Seu Jorge, a Brazilian singer, appears with a guitar, playing renditions of David Bowie songs in Portuguese, and it’s absolutely fucking beautiful. Since I’m Brazilian, it really hits close to home for me, especially because I personally love Seu Jorge anyway. But this song in particular is one of the best because it’s one of my favourite David Bowie songs, and it sounds brilliant in Seu Jorge’s slightly husky voice.
Juno: Belle & Sebastian – “Piazza, New York Catcher”
Why: When Juno first came out, I saw it five times in the cinema. It was the first time an indie film resonated so loudly with me, and it was I think how I got introduced to the kind of music I’m really into these days. Of all the amazing songs from the soundtrack, I think this is the sweetest one. It has a sound that matches the atmosphere of the film, slightly odd, slightly sad, slightly out-of-place, everything Belle & Sebastian is, really. It’s definitely my favourite song from the soundtrack, and the best one I think, even though “Anyone Else But You” is mentioned more often.
Inside Llewyn Davis: Oscar Isaac & Marcus Mumford – “Fare Thee Well”
Why: The latest Coen brothers film was about a folk singer trying to make it before Bob Dylan made folk popular. It’s gruelling and sad and, again, as it seems to be the theme of this entire post, melancholy. The way Oscar Isaac sings this track, so full of sorrow, even resentment, it’s beautiful, and the song itself is so well written. Props to Marcus Mumford as well, because his background voice adds fantastic depths to this song. I remember especially the dinner party scene when Davis loses it because this song brings back so many memories. It’s the power of the Coens — to make you feel for people who don’t really deserve it.
Her: Karen O & Ezra Koenig – “The Moon Song”
Why: Her is one of the best science fiction films of the past couple of decades. It’s so sweet and wonderful, even though it doesn’t have a particularly happy ending, it’s one of those films that makes you think about love and what it means to be human. This song in the middle of the film, sung by Scarlett Johansson and Joaquin Phoenix is so beautiful, and the cinematography is stunning. But I like this particular version even more, because Karen O’s and Ezra Koenig’s voices go so well together. Besides, there’s something almost playful, but also a bit sad about the lyrics, just like the film itself.
Donnie Darko: Gary Jules – “Mad World”
Why: Today this work is a bit overplayed, even cliche. But in Donnie Darko, a strange, strange film, it speaks to the main character and how the story unravels around him. The song is haunting, not only the lyrics, but the soft piano, and the whispering voice. I absolutely love it, just like the film.
That’s it! I hope you’ve enjoyed these tunes, and please share your own favourite songs from movies down there in the comments. Below is the full playlist, which you can also access through 8tracks here.
article by Mariana Duarte
This entry was posted in Fun Stuff and tagged 500 days of summer, away we go, cloud atlas, donnie darko, drive, fight club, film score, films, her, inside llewyn davis, juno, moonrise kingdom, movies, music, only lovers left alive, ratatouille, soundtrack, the breakfast club, the graduate, the guest, the life aquatic with steve zissou, the social network.