Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Interstellar Soundtrack

Interstellar is not your typical space colonization movie and the inception of the soundtrack is equally atypical. The story of the soundtrack begins with director Christopher Nolan sending composer Hans Zimmer a letter that had been typed out on a typewriter providing an outline of the theme of the film and requesting that Zimmer spend one day sketching out some ideas to fit that theme. Zimmer said “I really just wrote about what it meant to be a father”. The main Interstellar theme (titled “Day One”) is not at all what you would expect from the main theme of a space movie. It is not nearly as exciting, fast paced, or energetic as space/ adventure themes typically are. I think that this plays into logos because it is clear that Christopher Nolan made a very intentional decision to give the listener something different than they expected. From a pathos standpoint the main theme is very tranquil and suspended. It is also incredibly introspective in order to emphasize that the overarching theme of the film is not necessarily space exploration but rather the idea that human emotion and feelings are the only thing that can transcend both time and space. The organ is a crucial element of this soundtrack as well as this theme. In space there is no sound and often the only thing astronauts can hear in space is the sound of their own breath. The nature of the organ (sound created by air blowing through pipes) again emphasizes breath and humanity and the feeling of being distinctly human in contrast to the deafening silence of space. All of these elements combine to convey to the audience that what the score makes you feel (suspended, isolated as well as deeply emotionally connected, and longing to be back with the ones you love) does not necessarily match the purpose of the mission that was stated (to find a new home for the people of Earth). This hints to the audience to look for some deeper meaning. 

Later on in the movie part of the team of explorers travels to a planet to check the condition of one of the research stations. Before they leave the main ship to head to the planet they are discussing how one hour on this planet is equivalent to seven years on Earth. Once they reach the planet the music for the rest of the movie stays at exactly 60 beats per minute which forces the audience to be acutely aware of the passing of time. This adds to the pathos aspect of the score. The contradiction between the steady pace of the music marking the ticking of time and the less than fast paced action on screen creates an anxious feeling in the audience and makes us feel like we want things to hurry up so that they can get home. I feel like this contradiction is also a very intentional decision by Christopher Nolan. I think that it really heightens the audiences ability to relate to the characters because the audience wants them to get home as badly as they want to get home. 

Hans Zimmer and Christopher Nolan add ethos to this movie not only because of who they are individually but also because of the body of work they have produced together (Inception, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, etc). Hans Zimmer also manipulated the ethos of this movie by not releasing the soundtrack before the movie came out. Because of that the audience had no prior experiences with the music. 

I absolutely love this soundtrack for many different reasons. I think that the decision on Christopher Nolan’s part for the soundtrack to be so different than the apparent genre could have been kind of risky but I think it really paid off. Not only did this movie make $188 million domestically, but for me the soundtrack was really the redeeming factor of the movie. The beauty, elegance, tranquility, and buoyancy of the music really helps to make give the audience some breadcrumbs as far as what direction the plot is going in. I think it really was vital to holding together an otherwise bizarre (intergalactic bookcase anyone?) and kind of depressing (never going to see my kids again, but here I go) plot. Plus there’s the little fact that the organ part in this soundtrack broke an IMAX theater which is just really stinking impressive. 

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