Ask the Reader: favourite soundtracks

Here at Film and TV, we love hearing about our readers and what they have been watching. Have a little browse through this article and let us know how right or wrong you think these suggestions are!

Interstellar

I’ve had my fair share of exploring soundtracks to accompany me on early mornings and late evenings spent buried in coursework, but nothing ever measures up to Hans Zimmer’s Interstellar Soundtrack.

I was a late bloomer for Interstellar – I watched it in 2018, about 4 years after the film’s release. I was preparing for my exams at school and no sound was successful in cancelling out the noise from the busy street outside my apartment. That is, until Interstellar, which left me completely overwhelmed. 

Interstellar’s track is like no other – it stupefies you, yet simultaneously gives you a sense of invincibility, like you could conquer the world (or your exams) no matter how difficult. To this day I listen to the track if I’m feeling down or need a study boost before an impending deadline. It’s definitely a soundtrack I would recommend to everyone, no matter your movie genre preference. 

Spirited Away

Joe Hisaishi has composed over 100 film scores and albums throughout his career, however, my favourite has to be Spirited Away. One of the most powerful animations I have ever seen, Hisaishi treats the soundtrack maturely – as a film, not an animation. Not many composers do this, a handful of other animated films that captivate the audience similarly are The Incredibles, Nemo, and Up. The unique sound of the main theme presents Chihiro’s child-like charm from the opening bars, and the music continues to illustrate her constantly curious personality throughout the film. 

The range of the score is what makes it so exhilarating, from minimalism to chaotic dissonance, quirky melodies to lush themes, Hisaishi accompanies the events of the film perfectly to create a cohesive whole. Although it is a stunning standalone soundtrack, I would recommend watching the film for the best aural experience. Elevating emotions, the listener will find themself impacted by it in ways they never expected to be.

The Queen’s Gambit

The chess tournaments of The Queen’s Gambit unfold without dialogue; here lies the true majesty of the soundtrack. The movements of chess are brilliantly imitated as the music depicts a journey through the, otherwise silent, games. Yet this journey also extends to the protagonist’s life at large. 

Whilst ‘Beth’s Story’ and ‘Methuen Home for Children 1957’ are both tender and emotional pieces embroidered with soft piano and cello lines – as to reflect the loneliness and isolation of her early years – later tracks explore the development of her obsession for chess. Upon her arrival in the USSR, Beth’s character and skill for the game is entirely developed; this is enhanced by the fully orchestral instrumentation of ‘The Final Game’. Tension builds with the flurry of interweaving string passages until Beth’s ultimate triumph. The completion of this soundtrack marks the completion of Beth’s story; the final tracks are characterised by her glory.

Bridgerton 

One of Netflix’s biggest hit shows to date, Bridgerton is taking the world by storm, with the soundtrack being a significant talking point. Featuring instrumental versions of pop anthems such as Ariana Grande’s ‘thank u, next’ and Billie Eilish’s ‘bad guy’, the new period drama is unconventional in its mixing of the modern with the traditional. These reinvented covers are dotted throughout the show, with a notable mention going to the dramatic cover of ‘Strange’ by Celeste, used as the backdrop to a *certain* intimate scene. It is refreshing to hear recognisable tunes like Taylor Swift’s ‘Wildest Dreams’ – which features as a dancing track at one of the balls – with a classical-sounding spin. Vitamin String Quartet, a Los Angeles based ensemble, are the masterminds behind this, using a variety of string instruments to bring life to the show. This unique soundtrack sets Bridgerton apart from similar period dramas, giving it a modern twist that is certainly memorable.

8 1/2

Fellini is often cited as the filmmaker’s filmmaker. His films effervesce a flamboyance that many filmmakers struggle to emulate. His films endure because of how their puckish façade camouflage deep-seated anxiety that bleeds off the screen and lingers with their audiences. The two films that are considered to be both his best and his most personal films, La Dolce Vita, and 8 ½ manifest this like nothing else. They are beautifully crafted films, one could take any shot from them and hang it in a gallery.

But they need to be beautiful to then embody the vacuousness of fame and art as meaning bestowing ideals. His films are nihilistic in the sense that they reveal all values to be secretly meaningless. The endings of both 8 ½ and La Dolce Vita are hopeless, they are the moments where Sisyphus’s boulder has rolled down the hill and we must now traipse back down to fetch it once again because there is nothing else to be done.

Fellini’s long-time collaborator Nino Rota’s scores for La Dolce Vita and 8 ½ capture this duality; the dizzying narcotic frenzy of material excess, fame and all its trappings, and the moment when the wave breaks, when the nothingness washes over leaving us alienated. His scores both fabricate a sense of grandeur and excitement that echo excess and profligacy.

But they also capture a sense of desperation and absurdity. The music in 8 ½ evokes a sense of the circus that rings with its themes of irrationality and chaos perfectly accentuating Marcello Mastroianni protagonist who feels his life is descending into a feckless nihilism. If Fellini is one of the greatest, it is partly because of Nino Rota.

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