List Film

Five films scored by rock musicians

As Jonny Greenwood scores The Master, we look at film soundtracks by Neil Young, Nick Cave, Trent Reznor and Daft Punk

Five films scored by rock musicians

With Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest movie The Master already being showered with plaudits and sweeping the board across a number of international film festivals, it may be worth noting that the enigmatic director’s latest foray into the world of arthouse cinema sees him continuing his partnership with musician-turned-movie composer Jonny Greenwood. Having scored Anderson’s previous work, There Will Be Blood, his eery and often dissonant string arrangements were instrumental in augmenting the bleak and industrial landscape that populated the panoramic and sepia toned cinematography throughout. Instead of favouring huge Hollywood-esque crescendos that would normally serve to patronise audiences by heightening their awareness of a certain theme – Greenwood was able to convey various subtleties and nuances that gave a much more visceral and ethereal approach to his work ethic. Given his contribution to the continued innovation of his band Radiohead, Greenwood’s transition into the medium of film seemed an obvious progression. With a number of musicians now crossing over into composition for film, we take a look at some of the better soundtracks in recent years.

Jonny Greenwood - The Master

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross - The Social Network

With Reznor’s Nine Inch Nails now serving an indefinite hiatus, this was an opportunity for him to showcase a side of himself that was almost the polar opposite to the loud spectacle and despairing alienation conveyed by the pioneering industrial project. With subtle piano tinkering that had an almost classical aesthetic to it, Reznor and NIN producer Atticus Ross were able to convey the enormity of the monolithic structure of Harvard University while instilling a foreboding electro undercurrent that hinted at the evolution of the digital age.

Neil Young - Dead Man

The Jim Jarmusch movie was a dark study into modern American life from the perspective of a surrealist ‘post modern’ Western. Shot completely in black and white and littered with passages from the works of William Blake which served as a narrative throughout, these are often complimented by the subterranean tremors of Neil Young’s sluggish yet ambient guitar tones. Providing melancholic drama in places while creating a lush yet harsh and looming soundscape – Neil Young’s soundtrack is a peyote soaked foray into Western-Psychadelia.

Nick Cave & Warren Ellis - The Proposition

As well as providing the soundtrack for the John Hillcoat movie The Proposition the Australian crooner was also on screenwriting duties which gave him carte blanche of any sense of musical direction that the western epic was headed. With fellow Bad Seed member Warren Ellis’ eerie and often John Cale-influenced razor-like violin playing the pair were able to capture a rugged dynamic that reflected the perilous Australian outback while creating a sense of melodrama especially evident on the encapsulating ‘The Rider Song’.

Daft Punk - TRON: Legacy

The electronic heavyweights seemed like an obvious choice to score the sequel to the 80s cult classic. With visuals that were already heavily hinged on a surreal digital platform yet somehow technologically primitive, the marriage of their minimalist electro with the subtle glitchy ambience of this environment was the perfect fit. There are moments that defy their electronic roots and instead pay homage to the likes of Hans Zimmer’s distinctive use of traditional string instrumentation used in an almost symbiotic fashion with digital concepts.

The Proposition

  • 4 stars
  • 2005
  • Australia/UK
  • 103 min
  • 15
  • Directed by: John Hillcoat
  • Cast: Guy Pearce, Ray Winstone, Danny Hutson, John Hurt, David Wenham, Emily Watson, Richard Wilson

Bushranger country, Australia in the 1880s and Captain Stanley (Winstone) has captured two estranged members of a famous band of outlaws. He offers the oldest Charlie Burns (Pearce) a proposition that he cannot refuse - the trade of one brother for another. And so begins a vicious and visceral parable that leads Charles…

The Social Network

  • 4 stars
  • 2010
  • US
  • 120 min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: David Fincher
  • Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Armie Hammer, Max Minghella, Brenda Song, Rashida Jones, Rooney Mara

Dramatisation of the story behind the founding of the world's most ubiquitous stalking vehicle, starring Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg, the Harvard nerd who may or may not have backstabbed his way into becoming a billionaire. An interesting examination of the nature of modern friendship and the emotional cost of enormous…

Tron: Legacy

  • 2 stars
  • 2010
  • US
  • 127 min
  • PG
  • Directed by: Joseph Kosinski
  • Cast: Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, Bruce Boxleitner, Michael Sheen

Long-awaited sequel to the 1982 cult fave starring Hedlund as Sam, the son of missing games designer Kevin (Bridges) who follows his father into a virtual world. Konsinski's remake will appeal to original fans but is otherwise a gaudy, nonsensical confection with cringeworthy dialogue (if good soundtrack).

The Master

  • 5 stars
  • 2012
  • US
  • 137 min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson
  • Written by: Paul Thomas Anderson
  • Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams
  • UK release: 2 November 2012

Freddie Quell (Phoenix) falls under the spell of Lancaster Dodd (Hoffman), charismatic founder of a Scientology-style cult. Complex, sincere, elegantly interrogative filmmaking from Anderson, with Phoenix and Hoffman at the top of their game.


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