Music heightens emotions and brings stories to life. In the world of film, soundtracks go hand in hand with the plot wrapping audiences in an emotion or course of action.
The original soundtrack for ‘Gladiator’ was the first to leave an impression on me. Composed and performed by Hans Zimmer and Lisa Gerrard, themes such as ‘The Battle’ create a vivid impression of the clash of the two armies; ‘Now We Are Free’, an emotional and peaceful ending to the hero and film.
Hans Zimmer also wrote the OST for ‘Inception’ (2010). I haven’t seen the film, but it’s enough to listen to the main theme (‘Time’) to feel the heaviness and sadness of the story and want to stop the course of time.
No one writes quirkier stories in film than Tarantino; many times his stories get even quirkier through the use of music.
Sometimes the score takes the story to expected heights. Using ‘Down in Mexico’ for the lap dance in ‘Death Proof’ makes the scene even more memorable.
Other times the score adds new meaning to the story. Using ‘Freedom’ for the scene in ‘Django Unchained’ when Broomhilda gets whipped makes the drama of generations of enslaved African-Americans personal and painful.
Later ‘Who Did That to You’ accompanies Django’s escapes and ride back to the plantation. He is and he rides like a free man inspiring others to be the same. In a way, he is a symbol of all those who were not afraid to fight for freedom.
Tarantino is perhaps best known for using music that contradicts the obvious course of a scene. On the one hand, the scene is horrendously painful; on the other, the music is amusingly upbeat.
This contrast glues audiences’ attention to the action on screen. It makes them watch the respective scene on repeat, remember and relive it when the film is over – through the sheer sound of music.
These are some of the most iconic scenes written and directed by Tarantino. By his own admission, music is a central part of them.
One of these is the scene when Blonde tortures Nash and severs his ear with a razor in ‘Reservoir Dogs’ while ‘Stuck in the Middle with You’ plays in the background. One of my friends used to wind herself up listening to this track and remembering the scene in the movie.
My personal favourite is the closing scene of ‘Inglorious Basterds’, when Aldo Raine carves a zwastika into Landa’s forehead. ‘Rabbia e Tarantella’ by Ennio Morricone plays in the background and it couldn’t have made for a more ironically funny ending to the film.
I enjoy Tarantino’s films and look forward to watching ‘The Hateful Eight’. I bet there are some musical gems in there, too.
Death Proof: The Coasters, “Down In Mexico”
Django Unchained: Anthony Hamilton & Elayna Boynton, “Freedom”
Django Unchained: John Legend, “Who Did That to You”
Reservoir Dogs: Stealers Wheel, “Stuck in the Middle with You”
Inglorious Basterds: Ennio Morricone, “Rabbia e Tarantella”