By Ryan Keating-Lambert
So, it’s been almost two years since I started this humble little movie blog and it occurred to me, after a couple of glasses of wine, that I’ve never written anything deeply personal. That’s absurd because film is such a personal medium. Everything I watch takes me to a specific place, along with the music that accompanies it. It’s also only fitting that I should finally write about the genius that is soundtrack composer Clint Mansell because I recently witnessed his music played live at Film Music Prague – it was indeed a night to remember. So here it goes. Cue: a deep breath and another glass of red.
Like many, Clint Mansell was primarily introduced to me through the beautiful chaos that is the work of my favourite filmmaker Darren Aronofsky, so expect Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain, Black Swan and more in the following little breakdown of whimsical life moments. This artist has made many a fine piece of work though so be sure to check out the Spotify playlist I made at the end of this article which includes the work mentioned below plus much much more.
Requiem for a Dream
Again, like many, this is the first soundtrack from Mansell that I heard and it was love at first sight. The sweeping strings of the ‘Lux Aeterna’ movement has been played countless times over the years, and also been reinvented through various movie trailers. It’s a remarkable piece of music but it’s honestly just the tip of the iceberg. The soundtrack as a whole is nothing short of a masterpiece and there has never been nor will there ever be anything quite like it.
I was a teenager when I bought the soundtrack from my local Brisbane record store Rockinghorse and played it on high rotation until I knew virtually every note by heart. There’s no doubt that it freaked out my friends at the time who were mainly listening to Tool, Nine Inch Nails and A Perfect Circle (all good bands too). I specifically remember playing it in my best friend Anna’s car which would always start whatever track was playing from the beginning again every time you turned the ignition. Almost every petrol station in Brisbane had freaked out at the explosive crescendo of ‘Meltdown’ at one point or another.
Requiem for a Dream was also the first soundtrack that I played in its entirety on local Brisbane radio station 4ZzZfm back when I worked a graveyard shift from 2:00 – 6:00am every Sunday night. It was the background music for the drunken misfits and insomniacs, and I liked that. It was also the first time I had a caller who live on air said ‘I fucking love this. Thank you so much’. Music to my ears – both literally and figuratively.
The Fountain is a stunning and thought provoking piece of cinema that, like most of Aronofsky’s films, was the perfect project for Mansell. It was like Requiem but with more progressive and atmospheric rock, and being an avid listener of bands like Mogwai and Sigur Rós at the time, it was just perfect. A soundtrack that made you ponder the beauty of life and death and everything in between.
For me, it’s a soundtrack that is best heard from start to finish. The way it unfolds is just otherworldly and magical. OK, ‘magical’ sounds like such a cliche but it really is. I remember spinning this one at the radio station too. I would’ve been around 19 and was with my first boyfriend. We lay on the floor of the studio which was plastered in band and festival posters from the station’s colourful history, staring at the ceiling and pondering existence and what it all meant. Yeah… we never did figure out what it all meant but it was still a great soundtrack for making out to. Sorry 4ZzZfm, we clearly broke some rules there.
That hypnotic and thumping piano intro in Moon’s ‘Welcome to Luna Industries’ was the ideal beat for my aimless walks around London. I’d been there about a year on a working holiday visa, the one almost every Australian gets at one point or another. I was 23 and at a time in my life when all I wanted to do was experience things. I’d walk the streets of Hackney and Shoreditch not realising that my steps were perfectly synchronised to what was going on in my ear holes. I probably looked like a bit of a crazy person now that I think about it but that’s OK because everyone in London is crazy.
Then there were the slower parts. The track ‘Memories (Someone We’ll Never Know)’ was my go-to after a terrible break-up with a guy who I loved a lot at the time. I remember walking home in the bitter cold on New Year’s Eve thinking to myself that this guy was basically this track in human form and honestly just ‘someone we’ll never know’… and yes, you have my permission to laugh at that cheesy reference.
Still with me reader? OK, then let’s continue. After The Fountain my obsession with Darren Aronofsky films had reached new heights so to say that I was excited about Black Swan would be the understatement of the century. By this point, I had just moved to Prague and was eagerly awaiting the release of the film and of course the Tchaikovsky inspired soundtrack.
Luckily, I managed to see the film earlier than everyone else in Prague because I was in New York visiting, wait for it… my sister who was actually studying to be a ballerina there! We took my mum and saw it in a cinema near Times Square and it was a very meta experience to say the least. I bought the soundtrack on iTunes and it was that, as well as the overwhelming excitement of seeing the film with my ballerina sister, that accompanied me through Christmas with the family in NYC and then on the flight back to Prague, where the dark abyss of ‘A Swan Song (For Nina)’ would then play on high rotation as I explored the city’s labyrinth of snowy cobblestoned streets and alleys.
I’ve made some poor accommodation choices in my life, but this shoe-box basement flat in Prague’s Strasnice, which literally means scary town, was surprisingly not one of them… even if I did live next door to a crematorium and cemetery. Noah was always playing in the background, and despite it being played on my shitty speakers, I think it was still almost powerful enough to raise the dead. Very fitting as I was also going through an obsession with candles in wine bottles at the time. That flat was like a temple and ‘The Fallen Ones’ was the accompanying choir.
This Aronofsky film was also filmed in Iceland where I had been years earlier and had had the best holiday of my life. So I suppose the soundtrack reminded me a lot of my time there. There are no words to describe Iceland. It’s like a different planet, and I highly recommend checking it out.
So here we are. Congratulations dear reader for making it this far! Almost at the end… So, I’d been looking forward to see this movie for a while and the soundtrack hit Spotify several months before it was first screened in Prague so I already had an idea of what I wanted it to be, and it didn’t disappoint. Loving Vincent is a ground-breaking work of visual splendour and melancholic wonder. A stunning tribute to the troubled artist that’s matched only by Mansell’s outstanding score which has since become the soundtrack for my solitude. It’s the music I listen to on the balcony of my flat at night. It’s the one I listen to when I want to ponder all things great and small.
I also learnt recently that Van Gogh was epileptic, like myself. We supposedly had the exact same type of epilepsy too which is not the violent ‘exorcist’ kind that you see in the movies. It’s much less severe but still a total mystery, and the fact that it’s never really been understood is just plain fucking weird to me, but also fascinating. So in short, this soundtrack makes me think about that. Very cool that we had something in common, shame it wasn’t the art though!
So that’s all from me on that for now. Thanks for your reading and if appreciated, I might try to write more pieces like this. Enjoy the playlist!
Feature photo: LA Times