There isn’t a lot of noise out there on the upcoming third collaboration with David Fincher and Reznor/Ross, the composers who won the Oscar for The Social Network. Their second collaboration, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, is even more ambitious than their Oscar-winning score though just as great. The Academy, as we know, gets a little nervous when you step too far outside the box. Composers nominate composers and it’s a fairly incestuous little group, like many of the other crafts categories. They have their own superstars, like John Williams. This is one of the categories where you can look at the name and know they’re mostly headed for a nomination. The popular ones are of late include the king, John Williams, with 5 wins and 44 nominations. But also Hans Zimmer, Gustavo Sataolalla, James Horner, Thomas Newman, Alexandre Desplat, James Newton Howard, Danny Elfman, etc. That Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross not only crashed that exclusive club but also won with The Social Network is unusual. That they couldn’t quite cozy up to Dragon Tattoo is not surprising, if you’ve ever listened to that unbelievable score, one that ought to be considered among the greatest. It is so memorable, so strange, so unique – no one makes music like that in film.
The score to the Social Network, like the film itself, is a perfect thing. I spend many afternoons listening to it start to finish. I find it’s the best music to put on for inspiration if you have to write something or finish something. You can listen to the score and know exactly what scene, sometimes what lines are being said during a particular point. It is the hum, the drumbeat, the essential throughline to a perfect film.
The score for Dragon Tattoo is, to me, a masterpiece. It is as disturbing and unpredictable as the film and wildly different from The Social Network. To me, the score has captured Lisbeth’s complex inner world – her wildness, her self-control, her occasional craziness and the way she sort of weaves in and out of society, half-noticed, half-ignored.
When Trent Reznor took the stage at the Hollywood Bowl a while back with Nine Inch Nails it was an opportunity to see Reznor as the rock star — okay, Rock God — he is known as “out there” in the world. His work with Nine Inch Nails isn’t as far off from his composing as one might think. He moves fluidly through both forms, a musician through and through. As the frontman for Nine Inch Nails more is expected of him and he more than delivers. Under the warm Hollywood night sky Nine Inch Nails electrified the crowd that leapt to its feet and didn’t stop standing until the lights came up and the show was over.
Reznor took the stage before the crowd figured out what was going on for Copy of A (I did not record this video fwiw)
At first, it’s been said, Trent Reznor was not sure about whether or not to do Gone Girl — it didn’t really speak to him until he saw a screening of the film. Whatever Fincher delivers on screen was disturbing enough that he felt a connection. Why they are so good together, in my opinion, is that they do not shy away from darkness. If you have not yet gotten a copy of Hesitation Marks you should. The way Reznor is evolving as a rock musician is different from his work as a composer but each are, in my humble opinion, fascinating.
Music in film generally aids or enhance the emotional experience. Usually. It is put there to fill up empty spaces or to help the viewer indulge or luxuriate in the moment. But sometimes it is itself a character in film, as it is with John Williams’ score for Jaws, or Peter Gabriel’s score for The Last Temptation of Christ. Or certainly Phillip Glass. I would also have to add Bob Dylan on Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. I guess it’s because these composers, with the exception of Williams, also work in other arenas than composing. Their work in film stands apart. John Williams is such a great composer that any time he’s on a film you know it. Immediately. The same could now be said, quite easily, of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. They were always an outside the box choice for an outside the box director. No matter what becomes of Gone Girl, that music, which I haven’t yet heard, I know will endure.
I feel lucky to be alive at a time when Reznor is making music with Nine Inch Nails and composing film. In decades to come some might be envious of those of us who lived through it. Gone Girl opens to the NY Film Fest in a couple of weeks and we’ll get our first taste of what the new Reznor/Ross score is going to be like. I’m sure, like the other two, it will be part of my permanent collection.