Little Thoughts is a monthly guest post series where music fans and writers cover three albums, new or old, that they think deserve to be heard. The series itself is named after a Bloc Party song. This time, I decided to switch it up in asking a guest to write. Full disclosure, Murielle is my girlfriend, but that is not why I asked her; instead, it was because of her love for film. She runs a YouTube channel, MX2 Films, and I love the way her music choices in her videos complement the actual images. Because of that, she wrote about three of her favorite movie soundtracks and how they influence the movie itself.
Yo, I’m Murielle Marra and I live to tell stories through the lens of a camera – I am a filmmaker. DISCLAIMER: I am not a writer. Nor am I an avid music fan in the way the other people on this blog are.
“Moonrise Kingdom” Soundtrack and Original Score
In this film, music is important to style.
The difference between a soundtrack and a score is that a soundtrack usually consists of independent tracks that were not written specifically for that film, while a score is a musical piece meant for the events of the scene it is playing behind. Both are carefully chosen by the director.
“Moonrise Kingdom,” directed by Wes Anderson, is set up as if being read from a children’s book, and it compliments Anderson’s style of vibrant colors, wide camera shots, and conditions of his universe. The film opens with a commentary about variations of an orchestra coming together: “The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra.” It is a beautiful way to introduce the plot and people visually while guiding our ears through the same process; since we are hearing a commentator describing the inner workings of an orchestra, we are meant to be paying attention to the details shown and heard as well as how they all come together. By introducing the movie in this manner, we are now accustomed to having a narrator, which continues on throughout the film, although by an actual character from this point on.
Later, the music compliments Anderson’s style again when the Khaki Scouts are starting their hunt for Sam and Suzie. Light, happy, and (as the piece is so thoughtfully named) playful, the piece “Playful Pizzicato” contradicts the horrifying picture of young scouts carrying dangerous weapons. Anderson’s theme of dissonance through picture and sound allows the audience to think critically and deeply about the mind frame of each character. The light and happy facade of the Khaki Scouts while bearing axes and large weapons shows a potential for violence. It is meant to be conflicting in the contrast between what you see and hear, and it creates a separation of understanding that forces deeper thought and engagement within the audience as the rest of the soundtrack does throughout the movie.
“Up” Original Score
“Up” is where visual and audio meet and create emotion.
Within a great film, the music and the picture are, in a way, married and living in harmony. They work together to evoke and establish the emotion the director wants you to feel. Disney Pixar Studios has perfected this relationship by maintaining a reputation for making everyone, from all ages, sob those classic ugly tears over a four-minute montage of a couple growing old from the movie “Up,” directed by Pete Docter and Bob Peterson.
The beginning has lighthearted underlying piano melodies mixed with a full orchestra, and it fills your heart with joy and a feeling of flight. It’s the worry-free, honeymoon, young-forever feeling that you get when you first fall in love. It then transitions to the sound of the curveballs that life throws your way, in this case, the news the Ellie and Carl couldn’t have children, and the mood is dampened with a somber and slow variation of the same melody. The music slowly picks up as Carl and Ellie slowly pick up their life as well until it is back to the lighthearted melodies it once was while changing slightly as if to show how the music has matured as their relationship has. While the couple grows older, the instruments drop out one by one, until it is revealed that Ellie is sick, returning back to that somber instrumental. The piece ends with the melody of a singular piano and the image of Carl alone, both lonely and melancholy from the loss of their counterparts.
Four minutes. It took four minutes for Disney Pixar to emotionally attach me to these characters enough so that I would be left crying whenever I heard the soft notes of “Married Life.” Different triggers in music such as short staccatos and fast-moving rhythms were easily contrasted with the legato whole notes and chord-based movements, enabling the audience to distinguish what emotion was meant to be conveyed, proving once again that a great soundtrack and score to a film is able to portray emotion just as well through audio as the camera does through visuals.
“The Breakfast Club” Soundtrack
There is no denying that music has an innate ability to bring people together. One of my favorite films of all time – and one that has shaped me into the person I am today – is “The Breakfast Club,” directed by John Hughes. He depicts the human condition through the minds of five high schoolers stuck in Saturday detention. We are introduced to them from varying cliques and, as a high schooler myself, I immediately jump to the conclusion that they are a group of incompatible individuals because of their lack of commonalities. This snap judgment is sustained through the beginning of the film as the characters bicker and come to the same consensus. But the movie is about the complexity of people, not about cliques. It’s about the labels we are given at the age of “something-teen” and about feeling like we have been pushed into a box constricting us to be nothing more and nothing less than that one label.
Hughes distinguishes these five students during the beginning of his movie so that we, as the audience, would label them as well. Then, throughout the film, he strips down each character one by one, layer by layer, until they’re all sitting in a circle confessing why they were each there for Saturday detention. After their heart-to-heart conversations, the scene transitions into a dance montage with “We Are Not Alone” blasting through the record player of the library, and suddenly, they are all dancing, not as incompatible individuals, but as teenagers going through the same hardships of home, school, and life in general. They dance together because despite what the world had forced upon them, they found their common denominator and embraced their differences.
I believe music can accomplish the same thing. For a few minutes, music has the ability to get people grooving to the same beat, no matter what the circumstances. Life is hard enough as it is, and there’s a certain kind of magic in something that lets us feel less alone in our struggles.