The soundtrack of a film is a major contributor to its style, and, when listened to alone, can still give us the sensation of the film. With musicians and composers such as Trent Reznor, Alexandre Desplat and Hans Zimmer contributing to the films of 2014, it has been a great year for cinema. With 2015 just around the corner, it’s time to reflect on some of the movies, and soundtracks, that this year had to offer.
The Grand Budapest Hotel
This is a typical Anderson soundtrack, with a very upbeat folk sound. The film features original music from Alexandre Desplat, who has already worked with Anderson with the scores of Moonrise Kingdom and Fantastic Mr. Fox, and performances by the Osipov State Russian Folk Orchestra. The soundtrack is a perfect reminder to the audience of the light-hearted nature of the film and proves Alexandre Desplat to be one of the best composers of this year; the talented Frenchman also contributing to films like Godzilla and The Imitation Game.
This film was loosely based on the life of Frank Sidebottom, front-man of the Freshies in the late 70s, and follows a young man who joins a band struggling to find inspiration. The soundtrack was compiled of the recordings of the actors performing the songs live, adding to the authenticity of the music, as well as showcasing the talent of Michael Fassbender, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Domhnall Gleeson, and Scoot McNairy. With Mark Kermode describing the music as “comic” yet “profound and melancholic”, it is clear that Stephen Rennicks’ and Lenny Abrahamson’s bewildering vision was achieved with this soundtrack.
Telling the story of a young boy living in 1970s England that is introduced to black American soul, Northern Soul reminded its audience of the fun of music. The scenes at Casino and other Northern Soul venues make you wish you were there, dancing along to the Four Season’s ‘The Night’ and Gloria Jones’ ‘Tainted Love’. As well as the Northern Soul classics, the soundtrack features some forgotten gems, providing the audience with more of an insight into the era. It was the buzz surrounding the film and its music that brought it to 160 screens around the UK, as opposed to the intended 5.
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross worked on this dark ambient accompaniment to Fincher’s film, marking their third collaboration (having previously worked together on The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). David Fincher also used an uncredited remix of Reznor’s ‘Closer’ music in his 1995 film, se7en. The film has been nominated for the 57th Annual Grammy Awards ‘Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media’, against Frozen, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Gravity and Saving Mr. Banks. Reznor tried to achieve a sensation of “inauthentically” making the audience “feel alright”, mixing soothing sounds with short staccato electronica. The score perfectly syncs up with the film, flawlessly complimenting Fincher’s tense thriller. Listen to ‘Consummation’ to truly experience the soundtrack’s haunting nature.
Guardians of the Galaxy
Guardians of the Galaxy’s ‘Awesome Mix’ is, protagonist, Peter Quinn’s mixtape created to remind him of his home planet, Earth. It features songs that are all 60s and 70s classics in their own right, like ‘Hooked on a Feeling’ by Blue Swede and Joan Jett’s ‘Cherry Bomb’. Director, James Gunn, stated that he compiled the soundtrack by looking at Billboard charts from the 70s and then deciding on the ones that fit tonally. He also played the songs on set to help the actors find the “perfect groove”. The soundtrack was released on cassette exclusively as a part of Record Store Day, and was the first cassette that Disney Music Group had released since 2003.
Under the Skin
Sci-Fi Thriller, Under the Skin, was released in March in the UK and followed a female alien preying on men – in the artiest way possible. The films’ extremely unsettling score was the debut of Mica Levi, best known for her experimental style and band Micachu & the Shapes. Levi states that her idea, when creating the score, was to follow Johansson’s character and express what she was experiencing in real time. As haunting as the film is, it would not be the eerie arthouse masterpiece it has been recognised as without its equally thrilling score.
Of course, we couldn’t write about the best soundtracks of the year and ignore anything composed by Hans Zimmer! Zimmer’s beautiful score perfectly complements the Sci-Fi epic, as well as being a stunning piece of music in itself. Zimmer has previously worked with Director Christopher Nolan on the Batman trilogy and Inception, but this score was made a little differently to its predecessors. As well as every single instrument being played solely by Zimmer, at one stage Nolan asked the composer to only work for one day, and gave him an envelope with a single-page letter inside, telling the composer the “fable at the centre” of the story. He then asked him to show him whatever he had created at the end of that process – the end result was a four-minute piece which Nolan describes as “the heart of the film”.