A soundtrack can make or break a movie. Here are some of our favorites that we either think elevated the movie to another level or we simply fell in love with because the time was just right for you to fall in love with them. A common refrain between all contributors was “There are just so many to choose from”, so don’t get upset, if we didn’t mention yours. Maybe there will be a second edition.
Miruna Dumitrascu – Song to Song (2017) dir. Terrence Malick
Even though it’s a pretty obvious choice, I’ll go with “Song to song”. It basically breathes music. Set in Austin, Texas, the film explores love stories and the pursuit of working within the music industry, from the naive to the music-mogul, all wrapped up in a warm-lighted visual collage that is so representative of Malick.
And, there’s a bit of everything for almost every music freak (not to mention cameos of Patti Smith, Iggy Pop and Lykke Li)— electric scenes on Die Antwoord’s music, tender moments on Otis Redding, scenes on Camille Saint-Saëns and Arvo Pärt where characters wax poetic.. One can also find a gospel bit signed by LaShun Pace, Orchestra Baobab, Julianna Barwick, and the (play)list goes on.
Delia Albu-Comanescu – Lost in Translation (2003) dir. Sophia Coppola
If you ever need to embrace vacillation and existential angst, Sophia Coppola’s Lost in Translation meets you heart-first. The film tells the story of Bob and Charlotte, two extremely different individuals, at entirely different points in their lives, joined by a shared sense of being lost. It’s the quintessential narrative of self-discovery, of taking a stab at finding your place in a world that doesn’t seem to automatically embrace you.
How would you better drift between being lost and feeling found than by drifting from Patti Smith to The Jesus and Mary Chain or from Roxy Music to My Bloody Valentine. And if you really want to figure out how to escape your feelings of isolation, Peaches is there with a short recommendation.
Anne Dvinge – Round Midnight (1986) dir. Bertrand Tavernier
My favorite jazz movie (actually the only jazz movie I really like, and trust me, I have watched all of them!), because of Dexter Gordon’s tall, lanky melancholy and because of the amazing soundtrack produced by Herbie Hancock.
Jasmin Kønig – Submarine (2010) dir. Richard Ayoade
Imagine an insecure teenager who’s spending the days between existential considerations and vivid daydreams, trying to figure out his own place in this world, just to be meeting a quirky character to fall in love with. Add some slightly messed-up family members; and place them all together in a boring, grey town. Yeah, I love me some good coming-of-age story and “Submarine” (based on a novel of the same name by Joe Dunthorne) follows the foolproof recipe for a bittersweet one of that kind.
The short, intimate soundtrack, however, is rather unusual, sticking to one artist only: Alex Turner – better known as one part of Arctic Monkeys or Last Shadow Puppets – tells in 5 and a half songs the ups and downs of life on the transformative edge of adulthood. After shuffling several soundtracks and a hard time choosing just one, I came back to this EP, like I’ve done on many evenings since I’ve watched the film last. I guess it’s for lines like this one: “Tomorrow I’ll be stronger, running colorful // No longer just in black and white // And I’m quite alright hiding tonight…”
Mihaela Yordanova – Drive (2011) dir. Nicolas Winding Refn
Nicolas Winding Refn got some flak for this one. The movie was criticized for being overly stylized. Style over substance or not, one thing can’t be denied about this movie: it’s damn cool. And what I think took that coolness to the next level is definitely the soundtrack. Already in that mesmerizing opening scene where you at first more feel than hear the beat of “Tick of the Clock” (The Chromatics) before it starts building up slowly to perfectly accentuate the rhythm of the whole sequence. Through chase scene after chase scene, through slow and beautiful shots, even through brutal violence, the perfectly chosen songs speak loud and clear in a sublime contrast of Ryan Gosling’s almost silent character.
And just to name a few of the featured bands: Kavinsky, Washed Out, The Chromatics, Ladytron, The Knife, Farah… okaay, just go play it already.
Jana Udovenko – Marie Antoinette (2006) dir. Sofia Coppola
Even though we already have one Coppola’s soundtrack on the list, I just couldn’t resist including her again. The woman’s just too damn good at painting picturesque soundscapes.
I fell in love with Marie Antoinette’s music the moment I saw the trailer in the theatre back in 2006. The juxtaposition of a historical drama and modern indie music seemed like the most genius idea at the time. It still does. That is why I played The Cure’s “Plainsong” from my phone when I walked down the Gardens of Versailles. That is why New Order’s “Ceremony” seems to me like the ultimate anthem of freedom. And that is why I learned to play Squarepusher’s “Tommib Help Bus” on guitar, because I thought it was the most beautiful melody in the universe.
I especially love putting this soundtrack on during late springtime when everything is finally in bloom, but there is still a pinch of melancholy in the air. So, just wait a week or two and then put this gem of a soundtrack on to enjoy a sunset on the balcony or late evening stroll by the water. You won’t regret it.
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Erika Balint – The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) dir. Stephen Chbosky
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a book turned movie capturing the first year of high school through the eyes of lovable introvert Charlie. When everything from new friendships to raising his hand in class needs to be over thought, Charlie finds solace in mix tapes and in writing letters to a mysterious ‘dear friend’.
The accidentally discovered Smiths lull our hero to sleep, while Galaxie 500 provide the soundtrack to his first ever munchies experience. Night drive induced timelessness is fittingly accompanied by David Bowie and friendship in its purest form is born out of dance routines and youthful howling to Come on Eileen — I know it because my teary eyes told me so.
Author and director Stephen Chbosky manages to squeeze mental health, queerness, death, drugs, love, abuse, friendship and one heck of a soundtrack into 103 minutes of tear-jerking coming of age. Yet, to paraphrase Charlie, this movie is ultimately not a sad story. It is about being alive.
Ebba Wester – American Honey (2016) dir. Andrea Arnold
It’s funny because the “American Honey” soundtrack isn’t what I’d call my favorite music, or even music I’d choose to listen to, but it’s one that after watching the film, I constantly go back to. If you’re looking at the playlist and feeling really confused by the combination of white male “gentleman country”, Rihanna’s “We Found Love” and 2016’s trap hits – great, I hope I’ve got your attention. This playlist might not make a lot of sense at first glance, but in the sweet, languid, cheap tequila, trash-youth-road-trip-dance-party that is “American Honey”, these songs work poetic realist magic.
The music is always front and center in this All American story about aimless youth, class disparity and identity – the ragtag group of kids are always blasting hip hop in their van, dancing and singing along to every single word as they tumble through gas stations and supermarkets, and cruise around rich neighbourhoods trying to sell newspapers door to door. Highlights include the gang Yup and Nope-ing together in a motel parking lot to E-40’s “Choices”, and the gorgeous “God’s Whisper” by Raury rising like the sparks from the kid’s gigantic bonfire around which they dance with such reckless abandon, your heart swells and you want nothing more than to join in.