Like just about everyone else on the planet, I saw Inception last week when it opened. Then I saw it again two days later. I love that movie. But one of the main reasons I love it isn’t so conventional.
Sure, I love the writing, which manages to make an almost impossibly complex story (at least somewhat) understandable for mainstream appeal. And the acting is good, the action is good, the directing is good, etc. But what I really love is the score and the sound.
It’s something I’ve noticed about films by Christopher Nolan. He does a unusually great job of implementing a score that sets the tone of his entire work, particularly in his newer movies. The Dark Knight is another great example. From the opening bank robbery scene, the mood is set by the sound.
Inception takes it to the next level. We get this.
Given how well the score and the movie go together to create a truly sonic experience, it shouldn’t be surprising that Nolan is seen as unusually hands-on when it comes to the sound elements of his films. For proof, watch this.
It’s the exact same reason why I like Darren Aronofsky films so much. The Fountain is a perfect example. Overall, it’s a fairly mediocre movie, but the score (and all of the sound) make it a great experience.
Michael Mann is another director who is great at harnessing a score. He’s a bit different though as he loves incorporating popular music into his movies as well (remember when he was on that Audioslave kick for a few years there?). This is more in the Scorsese mold.
Nolan and Aronofsky seem to be more in the Kubrick mold. None of them compose their own scores, obviously, but all utilize them perfectly for dramatic effect in their films.
The first thing I think of when I think about Eyes Wide Shut is that creeping piano. The first thing I think of when I think about The Fountain is the sweeping three tones. And now the first thing I think of when I think about Inception is the boom.
I love filmmakers who make movies this way. They’re the absolute best films to see in theaters. They offer you a full sensory experience, rather than just a partial one. This allows you to get completely lost in the films. That’s what movies are all about.