Monday, October 12, 2009


Moondust For The Ears: A look at Clint Mansell’s film score to Moon (and the film itself)

Review written by Dan Collacott

Music sets the tone of a film, knitting together the mood, implied meaning and suggestion of every little scene. Two notes can say to the audience ‘eh up something’s not right here’, or ‘relax things aren’t really bad, this cat ain't evil.’ Yet whilst original film scores may lose their relevance once released on CD or mp3, it is certainly worth noting that there are scores out there that stand-up as music in their own right.

For my generation Vangelis set the bar high with the haunting and incredibly dark-sci-fi soundscapes he created for Blade Runner (although I was too busy watching Daryl Hannah dressed as a futuristic hooker to notice the first time I saw/heard it). But today I rate Clint Mansell as one of the best modern day weavers of aural moods and imagination out there (Danny Elfman, John Williams aside). Before his cinematic film turns, Mansell was surprisingly once the vocalist and guitarist of late Eighties/early Nineties Stourbridge based synth-punk band Pop Will Eat Itself (yep those geezers who did that weird world cup inspired instrumental ‘Touched by the Hand of Cicciolina’ and loads of weirdly off beat and camp British attempts at industrial music).

His score for the low-budget Brit sci-fi film Moon is a prime example of a sound track that is in many ways as important as the visuals and dialogue of the film itself. Mansell manages to use his haunting pianos to build upon the isolation and claustrophobia of Duncan Jones’ (son of Bowie) sublime script to great effect. Overall it is often moving and sombre as it gently guides you through the tormented psyche of astronaught Sam Bell (an awesome turn by Sam Rockwell) as he questions his own identity and existence.

Just to throw in a curve-ball – it is worth noting the score had massive impact in the film’s trailer, in fact it was a bit too effective. It heavily implied a MASSIVE twist/feature in the film or something more unexplained, possibly even paranormal. The fact is Moon lacks this actual premise and the script is pretty linear and simplistic – although you do feel there is an undercurrent of different meanings that has been mostly edited out. The trailer for District 9 also has some of the score cut together in a way that never actual features in the film purely for impact (oh and footage not in the film).

But I digress ridiculously. In the score to Moon itself, Mansell makes a few nods to the non-classical bits in 2001 a Space Odyssey. The soundtrack’s strengths are the fact it goes for subtlety rather than being too overbearing, with more foundations in 70s horror than sci-fi. With repetitive simplicity – the piano is placed throughout just like the few notes you would identify the Omen with. But in this case you feel that the notes represent Sam Bell’s conflicted soul (you just want to hug him and give him cake).

Mansell has a knack of setting up pieces of percussion and guitar rapidly to push through the anxiety centres of the film, he also did this to great effect in the score to the far less critically acclaimed video game adaptation Doom. But it’s in the dysfunctional that Mansell’s musical skills excel, with scores to films like the wonderfully disturbing Requiem for a Dream sitting pretty in his locker.

If you haven’t seen Moon then – MY GOD WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU! – Even if you have or haven’t and like to treat your ears to some darkly epic sci-fi treats, then grab Clint Mansell's original score – whack it on your diepod – then sit in a starkly lit room in front of a massive mirror and persuade your reflection that he has to die!

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