Written by UTG critic Grace Duffy, Scene & Heard takes a look at the music that makes our favorite films so memorable. Whether it’s the 400-piece orchestra Christopher Nolan used for The Dark Knight, or the dozen or so bands that contributed to the soundtrack of Top Gun, there is no denying the impact music has on movies and this column hopes to highlight the best of the best.
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Here’s an unpopular opinion for you: I love Twilight. Shamelessly. I appreciate its badness the way others ridicule it, and see elements of truth in every character flaw that people deride. Not to imply that I take it seriously or anything, but people are really way too harsh on it considering how useless it is, and ought to lighten up. Further, the movies – which haven’t always managed to do the story justice – are gorgeous pieces of fluff that may do nothing for you aesthetically but ought to always endear you aurally. Each film in the franchise has come complete with a terrific artists’ soundtrack, treading a fine line in the hip and stylish and dexterously mixing the more maligned (Paramore, Linkin Park) with the indie elite (The Killers, Muse, Death Cab For Cutie).
The soundtrack to Breaking Dawn, which has been released ahead of the film’s arrival on 18th November, isn’t always as riveting as I’d like it to be. However, there are obvious reasons for this. The storyline to this picture involves Bella and Edward beginning a new life in wedded bliss, only to have their newfound world of careful order fall apart with the discovery that Bella is pregnant with a vampire/human hybrid. For a variety of horribly unpleasant reasons, this isn’t a good thing, and thus the soundtrack must find a way to interweave hope, promise, and loving ardor with hopelessness, desperation, and uncertainty.
The film opens with the wedding, and for this reason, the first half of the soundtrack places great emphasis on spirit and love songs. Some of the latter are more overt in their attempts to tug at your heartstrings, while others are more fragile expressions of feeling. Most bear the same slightly subdued, even hazy mood that characterized the soundtrack of New Moon. Nothing about blind devotion ought to seem out of place here, and thus “Endtapes” by the Joy Formidable and “Love Will Take You” by Angus and Julia Stone make for pleasing, vivid, and gorgeously romanticized openers. The first one is a little livelier, the latter slightly more refined, but both effortlessly hint at the glazed adoration of the couple as their impending nuptials approach. They’re succeeded by Bruno Mars, who is as far as I’m concerned God’s gift to this franchise. I am equally unashamed to say that I have a massive guilty love of Bruno Mars, and his frequently anguished cries of the most pervasive love fit the story like a glove. “It Will Rain” may not be one of his better efforts, but quite openly serenades a desperate and demanding love in pained, emphatic tones backed up by seedy tempo and gaudy sentiment aplenty. As a mark of its suitability, in the first verse he asks the girl in question to leave him morphine should she ever leave, such would be the level of his devastation. Sound like the kind of far-reaching melodramatic nonsense Bella “I’ll jump off a cliff to visualize Edward” Swan would go in for? Totally.
Nestled alongside this extensive show of emotion are some genuinely kooky songs that ought to be cannon fodder for the wedding reception or the giddy build up to same. “From Now On” by The Features is the first song to cast aside the cloud of rosy-eyed sentiment and foist some unspoiled and urgent rhythm upon the soundtrack. Its chirpy refrains hint at excitement and anticipation and act as a crushing dose of momentum. “Neighbors” by Theophilus London is a curious addition. It’s a bit of an urban crossover with the more familiar strains of pop and indie music, possibly an outtake for the honeymoon in Rio. Its verses are smarting and matter-of-fact, even slightly comical in their oh-so-serious declarations of feeling, while the chorus offsets this by drenching everything in a slower and more intensive show of heart. “Sister Rosetta” by the Noisettes is cool, fast-paced, and exhilarating. It’s weirdly motivational and has a spirited sense of adventure. The irreverent tone and fun-loving nature of the song indicates it might put in an early appearance at the wedding or its immediate aftermath, serenading that most untoward of moments then the otherwise austere and sterile clan let their hair down.
After this rousing rabble, the latter half of the album descends into breathless fog again. This is presumably to match Bella’s weakened and vulnerable state and hint at the precariousness of her predicament. “Requiem on Water” by Imperial Mammoth offers a frozen and dreamlike take on the prevailing emotion in this regard, singing the sorrow with a light and graceful ardor. The reappearance of “Flightless Bird, American Mouth” by Iron & Wine is particularly touching. This song serenaded Bella and Edward’s dance in the gazebo at the end of the first film, and in this pared-down, gorgeously harrowing ‘wedding version’ acts as a haunting reminder of where everything began. One can assume from the title that this will be the song for the first dance, but as a third-act interlude and snapshot of how it all came to be thus, it could do some serious damage to your composure.
The final track is an instrumental composition from Carter Burwell, who composed the sumptuous score for the first film. “Love Death Birth” features his trademark gorgeous percussion work, used to underline an unsettling mood and lingering romanticism. There are various twinges from the first movie, including the delicate refrain of Bella’s lullaby, creating something mystical and mysterious that’s at once perfectly familiar and intimate while also dangerous and foreboding. It may be used to score the credits on the film, offering a tender yet sharp bridge between the dramatic conclusion to part 1 and the abundant drama yet to come.
The soundtrack to Breaking Dawn is thus another glittering addition to the franchise’s musical back catalogue, capturing the tone and mood of the story perfectly. It’s quite heavy on feelings and, at 16 tracks, extremely lengthy given this taut state, but the songs are first-rate and excellently chosen. Bring on the movie. One cannot wait to see all these in context.