After watching Baby Driver for the 14th time, I started to to think about what music brings to film. Thus, It felt appropriate to examine the importance of the soundtrack to film and why and how it can work so well.
It’s important to note that there is a significant difference between a film’s soundtrack and a film’s score. Pretty much every film has a score, music that is largely orchestral and instrumental which plays during and in between scenes. Scores on their own have become entities that can stand separate from their films; Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Jaws, Lord of the Rings, Psycho, The Godfather, Jurassic Park: all movies that have scores that are instantly recognizable and hugely iconic in their own right. Some of the functions of scores are used to build tension, set the film’s tone and convey emotion.
A soundtrack on the other hand is a compilation of songs, some original and created for the film, others pre-existing material, and they can act in a similar way to a score or simply be released as a piece of merchandising or promotional material for a film. The mark of a great soundtrack is something that becomes instantly memorable, recognisable and, at times, even bigger than the film itself.
Soundtracks are able to forgo the test of time. Let us not forget the greatness of those from the 80s and 90s. You had songs that beautifully capped off movies and etched them instantly into your memory, like The Breakfast Club and ‘Don’t You (Forget About Me)’ by Simple Minds. Songs that defined movies, like Ben E King’s ‘Stand By Me’ from, Stand By Me. Songs that gave the movie their identity, like the plethora of great tunes on the Dazed and Confused soundtrack. Plus, there’s Tarantino and his personality injecting use of music in Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. The soundtrack can be the ace in the hole for a director.
The soundtrack is still an important part of cinema. So, often it can help a film to become instantly memorable and give it that much more of an edge over other similar films. I cannot wait to see the soundtracks that arise this year, and the personalities they mold for their films. I shall leave you with a few of my personal favourite film soundtracks, and I offer you to do the same in the comments.
Rushmore (1998) Directed by Wes Anderson
The Graduate (1967) Directed by Mike Nichols
Baby Driver (2017) Directed by Edgar Wright