Contentment in the Form of a Film Score

Short entry today that was inspired by my ride home on the T after work on Monday. Usually when I’m taking the T home, I try to get on one of the old style trains, find a single seat and relax while listening to music on the ride from St. Paul Street to Chiswick Road. On Monday, I had gotten a nice seat to myself right at St. Paul’s and made the decision that I was going to get some reading done. I pulled The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (which I have since finished. It’s great) out of my messenger bag, and right as I was going to turn off my iPod (really don’t like reading and listening to music at the same time. I’ve found that lyrics get in the way of my enjoyment of a book), “The Last Man” came up on the shuffle. “The Last Man” is the opening song from Clint Mansell’s score to The Fountain. Now, I’m quite the fan of Darren Aronofsky. Loved Pi, Requiem for a Dream, and The Wrestler. But The Fountain holds a special place in my heart for being so damned emotional and personal in a way that his other movies aren’t. I think it’s his strongest work, and it’s right up there with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and I Heart Huckabees (more on both of those films in a later entry) as one of my favorite dramas of the last ten years.

A large part of that love comes from Clint Mansell’s score, as he again called upon the Kronos Quartet after the grand success of his score for Requiem for a Dream (the central theme, entitled “Lux Aeterna,” has been used constantly in movie trailers because it’s just that damned good). It’s a gorgeous score that works incredibly well on its own just as an isolated piece of neo-classical music. Lush violin arpeggios, piano movements, and minimalistic drum tracks create a sort of slow rumble throughout the entire album that finally climaxes in “Death is the Road to Awe,” an eight minute piece that features a slow crescendo that explodes out into full splendor at the six minute mark. This is of course also the film climaxes as well, with its own explosion of color and light in a moment that I absolutely refuse to spoil in greater detail. One of the best things about the actual score that was released on CD is the way that it flows seamlessly within itself as a piece of music completely separate from the film for which it was created. There are many films that have great scores. But not all of them work well on their own. I think Requiem for a Dream is actually a really good example of a great score from a movie that does not really work on its own. “Lux Aeterna” and its derivatives are great songs on their own, and the rest of the work is fine enough, but it’s not cohesive. The pieces seem more random because they’re less unified in an overall theme and more suited to specific actions happening on screen. It’s one of the reasons why I think The Fountain is the better of the two scores.

There was something very serene about that train ride, as the subtle sounds of the Kronos Quartet wafted through my headphones and I read a rather enjoyable section of Kavalier and Clay about an upscale party the titular characters go to featuring Salvador Dali’s near death and many other surrealist moments. I’m really enjoying the book, which shouldn’t surprise anyone considering its ties to comics and its status as a sort of alternate version of the Jerry Siegel/Joe Shuster story. It’s got the sort of slow paced slice of life feel that has a tendency to work much better in books than movies (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, I’m looking at you), and the combination of the book and the music and the fact that I had had a nice lunch with my father that afternoon just made me step back and think about how far I’ve come since the beginning of the new year. I got a job, decided to finally get moving about losing weight, and many other things have happened to really make 2009 a year to watch. It’s been good, and I think it will continue to be good.

This post was written to the tune of Clint Mansell and the Kronos Quartet’s The Fountain (natch)


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