Documentary: Before the Flood (2016)
Director: Fisher Stevens
Composers: Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, Gustavo Santaolalla & Mogwai
When it was first announced, I was very excited for Fisher Stevens’ Before the Flood. Along with a bunch of other people, I couldn’t wait to see how Leonardo DiCaprio was going to talk about climate change and how it’s all just a hoax created by the chinese… Hehe, I’m just fucking with you. However, I’d be lying if I told you I was looking forward to this documentary because it talks about different ways that we can save our planet. Although climate change is a very important subject and the documentary tackles it very well, my hype was rather created by the lineup of composers that were hired for the soundtrack. I know, I just put music over our planet’s disastrous decay, I had a bad day alright?
Saying this documentary has a good soundtrack is an understatement. Before the Flood has one of the freshest soundtracks I’ve heard this year. It has new sounds, new instruments, new ways to captivate your mind, and that’s why it isn’t just “good”. I’m not sur why Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, Gustavo Santaolalla, and Mogwai were contacted for this project, but I think I can guess. Climate change doesn’t interest everybody and Fisher Stevens knew that his documentary needed some amazing music to keep his audience’s attention towards the screen. He probably hired all of these composers to create an amazing soundtrack that wouldn’t take up a lot of auditory space, but would be present enough to keep us watching. I haven’t heard nor read about this soundtrack and it makes me wonder if my theory is correct. All that aside, I can explain why I put the documentary’s music over its subject.
To my own defense upon what I said earlier: music is one of the most human creations of all. Think about it, not a single animal produces music yet humans find different mash-ups of sound appealing? It’s a little weird when you think about it, but I won’t complain because what the fuck would we even do without any music in our lives? I digress, let’s continue. When you start to listen very closely to the music, you can notice it has an incredible amount of symbolism. The electronic sounds that Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross use represent the future of our species; the music revolves a lot around that aspect and it has a sense of progression. Furthermore, electronic music is also seen as a futuristic musical genre. On the other hand, Gustavo Santaolalla’s organic string plucking melodies represent something that resembles the past. Just think about it, string based instruments are very mechanical compared to synthesizers and such. Mogwai does his own thing and didn’t compose songs with the others so I won’t include him in the analysis. Now, the collaboration between Reznor/Ross and Santaolalla creates something very peculiar that I hadn’t heard before. They blend the mechanical aspect (the past) with the electronic aspect (the future) and it creates a soundtrack that feels very unique and reassuring. I know, it’s a weird way of saying it but you’ll understand once you’ve listened to some of the songs. There’s a certain glimpse of doubt that is conveyed throughout the whole soundtrack and I think it has something to do with the blurry future that awaits the human race. They symbolise the fact that we have to work on our mistakes from the past for the future to work. I might be going a little far with this, but it’s fun to speculate sometimes.
All that pretentious talk aside, this collaboration was a fantastic idea. It’s not that common that multiple composers come together and make something new. It’s a shame because it usually creates some of best the soundtracks. Just imagine if John Williams and Ennio Morricone were to work on a movie and create a whole new score by melding their ideas together. I guess we can dream… Still, my fingers are crossed. With more and more composer collaborations seeing the light of day, I can’t wait to see what awaits us in the near future. Could this be the future of film music? Maybe. We’ll just have to wait and see. For now, let’s just enjoy the music shall we?
Interesting trivia: Leonardo DiCaprio nearly drowned while shooting one of the first outings.
Song: Before The Flood
Song: Disappearing Act
Song: 8 Billion
Thanks for reading (and listening). See you next week!