April 6, 2006

The Sound of Memorable Movies

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I can’t stop raving about the most recent film version of Pride and Prejudice. Kiera Knightley more than does justice to our beloved novel heroine in her portrayal of Elizabeth Bennett, and Matthew MacFayden is a fitting emotionally unavailable Mr. Darcy, with a coolly restrained impeccable performance that still allows pronounced chemistry to generate between himself and Knightley’s Lizzie.

The film is stunningly beautiful visually, but does not romanticize Georgian England like most interpretations of the decadent time period tend to do. Hems are soiled and parlors are a clutter in the realistically bustling Bennett household. And Mr. Bingley, the suitor for the Bennett’s plain Jane is dumb as door nails in this version, a character trait I always assumed of the wealthy visitor to Hartfordshire.

The movie is also a smart class critique of the British social strata and gender politics that placed women at a most undesired post and cleverly mocks the idleness of the upper class. But more than anything else, I absolutely adore this movie’s soundtrack.

What a pivotal part a soundtrack plays, it can make or break scenes. Forget the script; if cheeseball violins serenade two leads as they kiss the result can be ghastly. Sometimes soundtracks possess such redeeming qualities, they can save a disastrous film from never seeing the light of day again (for example, why does anyone still remember Empire Records?).

On the Pride and Prejudice soundtrack, both filmmaker and composer’s visions appear to merge effortlessly. Dario Marianelli captures the spirit and charm of Austen-era England in his orchestrations, and Jean-Yves Thibaudet plays the piano with an ethereal and airy touch. Call it classical-light for the inattentive movie-goer, where a shortened abbreviated classical repertoire takes the place of expansive sweeping overtures. Here are some other soundtracks, both original compositions and various artists’ compilations that are as memorable as the films they are featured in.


A quirky and clever film deserves an equally eccentric musical counterpart. Composer Yann Tiersen created a world of whimsy for Amelie and her misadventures.

Billy Elliot

This has all the British Glam rock you can possibly consume in one sitting. Plenty of goodies by T-Rex and the Clash provide a lively accompaniment for the dancing boy wonder of the hour.

25th Hour

Musician Terence Blanchard’s treatment of this incredible score matches the mood of this Spike Lee joint perfectly. The right sense of intensity musically narrates a convict’s final hours as a free man in post 9/11 New York City.

Good Will Hunting

Gus Van Sant sprinkles quite a few Elliott Smith originals in this excellent movie. “Miss Misery” deservedly won the Oscar for best song that year, and “Between the Bars” and “Angeles” are also Smith favorites included in the listing.

Bridget Jones Diary

Artful Dodger and Craig David contribute, as well as Gabrielle (remember her jam “Dreams Can Come True” from elementary school? Yeah, couldn’t believ it myself.)

Downtown 81

I always wanted to know the name of the song that Jean Michel Basquiat roams the streets of New York to, and if you’re in the same boat, it’s Grand Master Flash’s “White Lines,” which provides the perfect audio backdrop to the film’s gritty urban aesthetic.

Bend it Like Beckham

This soundtrack is so fun, with contributions from Indian artists but also energetic performances by Curtis Mayfield, Blondie, and Basement Jaxx. It’s a celebration.

My Best Friend’s Wedding

Old pop standards provided by Tony Bennett, and Jann Arden are ever so fitting. Oh, and the priceless “I Say a Little Prayer” medley sequence spurred by a deadpan Rupert Everett is included as well.

A friend of mine’s dream job is to choose the songs for television or movie soundtracks. Well someone has that job, and I imagine it is a pretty sweet gig.

Archived article by Sophie Asare