Movie Music Has Gone Off Script

If you listen back through cinema soundtracks from the past half century, you can hear movie music begin to shift from being mere melodious accompaniment to become its own means of storytelling. That’s what writer Sean Doyle argues in the current issue of Film Comment, as he explores the ways in which practitioners of the medium have embraced “cruelly jarring” soundtrack choices. Doyle cites two Stanley Kubrick combinations as prime examples of these dissonant pairings: Dr. Strangelove’s use of Vera Lynn’s “We’ll Meet Again” set against the film’s apocalyptic final scene and the jovial crooning of “Singin’ in the Rain” in one of A Clockwork Orange’s most disturbing scenes. Similarly ironic selections appear in films ranging from Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas (which plays Eric Clapton’s melancholy “Layla” over a scene of carnage) to Michael Haneke’s Funny Games, whose opening marks a grotesque shiftfrom an austere classical track to aggressive noise music. “A soundtrack,” Doyle writes, “was once an emotional guide wire for the audience to grasp onto. The last few decades have turned it into something that crosses the barriers between art and the real world, between viewer and screen.”

Head over to Film Comment’s website for the full article.

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