Film and music: artistic symbiosis


Indigo’s Film & TV and Music sections undertook a questionnaire of Durham students to find out their all-time favourite films, TV shows, music artists and movie soundtracks. We wanted to think about the interplay between students’ top tracks and viewing selections. We saw a wide diversity of choices but felt that a common feature in film choice was the strength of the soundtracks that underpinned them.

From musicals to biopics, music videos to soundtracks, the reciprocal and influential relationship between film and music is one that heightens both genres as adaptable and entertaining art forms. Each distinct form expands franchises and defines the tone for which each can be appreciated. The intersection between music, film and television is vital. Soundtracks, scores, and intros can characterise the success of the cinematic art, in the same way that music videos can expertly express motivations behind songs. It’s certainly difficult to hear the song ‘I’ll Be There for You’ without thinking of Rachel and Ross and the iconic 90s New York of Friends. In this way, the responses of Durham students laid out in this article are somewhat unsurprising. With Whiplash coming out as a resounding favourite film, and the scores created by Hans Zimmer and John Williams receiving the appreciation they deserve, it’s clear that the relationship between music and film is one beloved by all.

Durham students’ top films include both critically acclaimed cinematic masterpieces and family favourites

The popularity of music biopics seems to have prevailed. Combining well-known icons of the music industry with the creative visions of incredible directors, this genre has cemented its position within both blockbuster productions and smaller indie projects. In the last few years, we have seen the unparalleled success of Bohemian Rhapsody and Elvis, and we can see this biopic love from our student response, celebrating 2016’s Oasis biopic Supersonic and Val Kilmer’s 1991 depiction of the singer and poet Jim Morrison in The Doors.

Music videos simultaneously entertain audiences and expose bands and singers for what they truly are: artists. The Beatles’ ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ 1967 video heightens the vision of psychedelic funk that defined the mood of the counterculture music of this period. In more contemporary times, The 1975’s ‘Love It If We Made It’ hails a powerful construction of a shocking reel of footage to function alongside the lyrics, making the song more politically charged and evoking the contentious Matty Healy’s confrontation of modern society.

Soundtracks often operate in a similar way. Whether it is the popular score of films such as Guardians of the Galaxy or Pulp Fiction that serve to entertain and appeal audiences, or the perhaps more malign connotations behind the closing scenes of Donnie Darko being heightened by ‘Mad World’, soundtracks cement the motivations behind cinema. On-screen musicals, with their time-honoured family viewership, have also proven the popularity of the seamless collaboration between music and film. With hits such as Mamma Mia, La La Land and Oliver!, it is undeniable that the storylines of each are heightened, and the emotions intensified, by the music that runs throughout the characters’ lives.

Student responses show us that film doesn’t have to be pretentious, or even clever, for it to entertain and cement its position in the ratings

Durham students’ top films include both critically acclaimed cinematic masterpieces and family favourites. Ranging from the 1958 Marilyn Monroe classic, Some Like it Hot, to 2020’s best picture winner, Parasite, it’s clear that contemporary and thus perhaps more accessible films are not fast-tracked into young people’s repertoires. Films that we have grown up with seem to retain their place as firm favourites, with Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter recurring throughout our responses. Student responses show us that film doesn’t have to be pretentious, or even clever, for it to entertain and cement its position in the ratings.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s complex and witty British satire, Fleabag, secured its place at the top of many of our students’ responses. And there would be little point arguing with this. Her writing and acting style is modern, meaningful and above all, funny, making the show an easy re-watch for its many accolades. In any case, who wouldn’t want to relive Andrew Scott’s certainly effective portrayal of the ‘hot priest’?

The consensus on students’ favourite artists pays testament to the diverse scope of bands and singers that young people have access to. Once again proving that we are not stuck in the contemporary world, The Beatles’ timeless talent and portfolio of albums shone through the responses, alongside the brilliantly inventive Loyle Carner. Taylor Swift, however, led the ratings, with almost half of our selected students putting her in their top five. With tickets for her shows selling out in seconds, and being resold for thousands, it seems that we really are living in Taylor’s world.

The desert island discs had perhaps more consensus amongst students than other categories. The Strokes’ Is This It had consistent appreciation, alongside Taylor Swift’s Folklore and The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club. These albums again illustrate the versatility and scope of listening among the student body. Personally, I cannot imagine listening to Folklore on repeat, however, it is exactly because opinions range and differ that makes this such an engaging point of discussion.

Our findings from this survey undoubtedly highlight the ways in which music and film can complement one another. The variety of musicals, soundtracks and music biopics listed indicates the love that Durham students hold for the industries of cinema and music. We hope that these findings inspire you to listen to new music or watch a new film after a long day at the Billy B, and to perhaps further appreciate the craft of collaboration between the two.

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