Victor Hugo once said, “music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.” As an avid listener of music, I couldn’t agree more. Whether I’m feeling particularly blissful or perhaps even a tad wistful, I always know I can seek comfort amongst the treble clefs and time signatures of a far-away land. Simply put, music is my mistress. It’s one of the only entities that can evoke such genuine emotions within me, with the exception of maybe one thing; movies. While music is typically pleasing to the ear, movies work to capture an entirely different sense; the perception of imagery. Through activating different areas of the brain, these two elements create a toxic, yet electrifying relationship, which leads to the reason that I’m here. As both a music and cinema buff, I feel it’s my duty to share with you the movies that have perfected this skill, as it’s truly underappreciated by the public at large. While many refuse to acknowledge its existence within film, music has played an influential role within several of the most emotional scenes in cinematic history. Whether it be Mufasa’s death in the Lion King, Rudy’s inspirational sack, or the execution scene in The Green Mile, music (lyrics or not) has raised the bar in exemplifying the true nature of a theatrical script.
Thus, to begin our journey, I wanted to share with you a film directed by Wes Anderson back in 2001, The Royal Tenenbaums. Although relatively unknown these days, the film made a very public splash at the turn of the century due to an ongoing copyright battle between the director and various musical artists. Yet while movies only possess a limited amount of resources, Anderson made it his mission to acquire nearly all of the songs on his wish, including this one performed by a German folk-rock artist.
In hopes that some of you will go out and watch this movie, I’m going to try my best to avoid any spoilers, but I just had to include this scene. Gwyneth Paltrow’s arrival via the Green Line Bus serves as a quintessential moment in the film, and coupled with Nico’s deep, yet intimate vocal, you can’t help but be launched into a state of pure nostalgia. As many of us know, there is no greater feeling than being reunited with someone you love, as everything else seems to melt away. Thus, the selection of ‘These Days’ was perfect, as the vocals and instrumental combine to produce a sense of intoxication, with just a dash of unrequited love thrown in.
After watching the scene above, I often find it difficult to put to words what I’m feeling. It’s so sobering; real; and certainly capitalizes on the brilliance of Elliot Smith’s track. Despite the lack of vocalization from Richie Tenenbaum, this attempted suicide not only conveys a sense of agony, but a hopeless regret, and a futile surrender to love itself. His ability to search for a reason to live has simply been lost amongst the haystack. Thus, while suicide and depression remain a huge issue within our world, I hope that this scene shows that there will always be someone out there that would be crushed by the loss of your existence.
Finally, although I really encourage you to listen to the entire soundtrack, we have a piece by one-half of the legendary duo, Simon & Garfunkel. First off, I dare you to get through this whole song without tapping your feet or swaying to the beat. This song creates such an adventurous and carefree environment, as it hopes to promote a sense of spontaneity amongst its listeners, much like Gene Hackman and his grandkids endorse in this scene. Plus, although I’ve never gone on a road trip, I’d have to say that this track would be a pretty strong contender to kick off the festivities, and that’s truly saying something!
That being said, I truly hope that some of you choose to engage in the brilliance that is The Royal Tenenbaums. While I am always open to future suggestions for movies, I merely wish that you take a closer look at this complex relationship that exists amongst music and film. Don’t be afraid to take a look at your favorite movie scene, and earnestly examine how it makes you feel. Does it include music? What type of emotions does it evoke? While this may only lead to more questions, there’s always the possibility that it will open the door to a better understanding of yourself, or perhaps even the world around us.