With the release of the Gone Girl film tomorrow featuring the third collaboration between Trent Reznor and David Fincher, I thought that rather than doing a review of the new score, I would run through what makes each score unique as a way of exploring how Reznor (and Atticus Ross) have crafted sound to match the core message of the respective films.
The Social Network was my favorite film of 2010, and a large part of what made Fincher’s film work so well was the masterful score contributed by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. The music provided by Reznor and Ross is pulsating and raw, yet controlled and somewhat cold. As a soundtrack, it propels the ‘action’ in the film, creating heightened drama around writing code, legal battles, and petty college hookups. It’s simultaneously conventional and unconventional, playing with the way Hollywood uses music and the kind of music that traditionally comprises a film score. As an album, if there is better music for ‘making mundane computer shit feel cool,’ I have yet to encounter it. Four years later and I still often throw it on if I need to feel like I am getting things done while hammering away at a keyboard.
On the other side of the spectrum in some ways is the The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. While fronted by a rousing version of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” with wonderful, howling vocals by Karen O and closed with a haunting version of “Is Your Love Strong Enough,” the majority of the score is about sketching the harsh Swedish landscape. The openness and isolation, as well as the uncertainty, fear, and struggle for control shared by the film’s dual protagonists. It is both more ambitious and more ethereal than The Social Network. Complex, layered, and almost otherworldly, it fits the film brilliantly, melding with the imagery and sometimes disappearing into the frame.
As a listening experience apart from the film, it leaves something to be desired, however. With a runtime of 173 minutes (yes, longer than the film itself), it can be exhausting, and it is easy to feel adrift among the noise. There are a lot of moments of quiet and static, and not really any of the hooks or motifs that make The Social Network a sublime listening experience. It’s fine for working, but you may forget that it is on.
Unlike both The Social Network and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, the newest soundtrack from this team for Gone Girl does not function in a single mode. Given the story in the film, interwoven with flashbacks covering a range of emotions and reactions to those emotions, it make sense that Gone Girl would offer more variety in terms of sound.
On first listen, it seemed almost indistinguishable from The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, as there is a lot of eerie, contemplative sounding textures. But when it all comes together, it is much more introspective, and at times claustrophobic, trapping you with the characters in the situation around them. Occasionally it explodes violently and without much warning, as the tension releases in a mix of live orchestral and electronic components.