The highly anticipated film adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s best-selling novel Gone Girl hit theaters this past weekend, ranking in a whopping $38 million. The film, which chronicles a toxic and thoroughly creepy marriage might have unnerved audiences with its mysteriously dark and distorted subject matter, but the goosebump-inducing score accenting every twist and turn was just as unsettling but equally haunting.
Composed by Academy Award-winning musicians Trent Reznor of industrial rock band, Nine Inch Nails and Atticus Ross, Gone Girl marks the duo’s third soundtrack collaboration with filmmaker and auteur, David Fincher.
In the film, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) and Amy Elliott (Rosamund Pike) seem to have a perfect marriage, but there is a great darkness centering around these characters when Amy goes missing and her husband is the prime suspect. If music plays as a source of emotion in film, this darkness and abyss of twisted mystery is best described through Ross and Reznor’s score as the two show a great evolution from their previous work with Fincher in The Social Network and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. The team and their knack for manipulating audiences through sight and sound are fast becoming this generation’s favorite pairing of cinematic composers, proving most advantageous and similar to the likes of Alfred Hitchcock and Bernard Herrman, or Sergio Leone and Ennio Morricone.
Besides developing themes of dishonesty and unhappiness in a marriage, Gone Girl looks into great detail of a society built on the media’s response to crime stories that haven’t been solved yet in this nanosecond type news world we live in. It’s interesting to hear the score on this soundtrack play on these thematic notes and forge a distorted reality for audiences. Reznor and Ross have the ability to create an alluring and spacious ambiance with this soundtrack, allowing listeners the chance to make their own decision on certain scenes through the function of their music balancing the imagery and characters. Not only does their score cleverly sway the psychology of the watcher back and forth, but helps push the story forward. The way Reznor and Ross comment on this marriage through the score isn’t overdone at all. At certain points, it’s lovely and gentle, with New Age-esque themes pushing through. But these endless sort of loops in every track make way for a dark and gritty truth that plays as a soundscape for a progressive yet delicately captivating and beautiful decay.
The soundtrack follows the frigid moods of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, opening up with the gorgeously haunting and mood-setting, “What Have We Done To Each Other”. It’s textural, mellow and atmospheric, but mostly menacing. In a progressive and climactic domino sort of affect, every track follows in the same pulsing vein between pensive, grim, and twisted. Because music has the power to influence and stimulate our basic emotions or evoke a multitude of sentiments, this soundtrack’s strengths lie in manipulating that very emotion by creating a commentary or judgment on the film’s direction.
For the first part of the film’s soundtrack, it’s peaceful and soothing. With tracks like “Sugar Storm” or “Empty Places” it may seem tranquil and untroubling, but these very sounds soon evolve into a much darker tone as the film progresses and we learn much more about Nick and Amy. The score perfectly descends into fractured shards of unease as the shadows of their troubled marriage take form through the music, elevating the film’s mood to a rather sinister point of no return.
Like mentioned, there are gorgeous tracks on this record with many growing into a crescendo of a thousand promises, epitomizing the growth towards a happy union. However, this is not the case with Reznor and Ross as they dive into the enigma of this particular marriage and what truly goes on behind closed doors. Each track naturally builds from the last with an instinctive evolution, but also feels like being “stuck” and in many ways, stranded or lost in a perverse mentality.
“Appearances” is an ambient beauty that’s almost calming, but lets the listener know there’s a darkness underneath these tranquil and secluded tones. “Like Home” feeds hope with a sweet warmth, but slowly begins to descend into an ugliness and throws away any ounce of joy once felt. Reznor’s piano-led “Just Like You” might be the polar opposite of his usual work, but it’s by far one of his most beautiful and fragile melodies to date. For the remainder of the track as he plays piano, any conflict seems for a split second unperturbed. However, when Reznor submerges that blissful piano sound into an electronic den of punch, the duo’s scoring methods become more perceptible and the audience soon becomes the experimental ears to the film’s tense and brutal moments.
When we reach “Background Noise”, the sparse and quiet themes once heard early on begin to deteriorate and grow almost desolate. In some sense that theme carries on in “Procedural” with a very active sort of sound, reflecting a psychological and emotional state of mind for one of the characters. The very low-tech “The Way He Looks At Me” (Reznor’s favorite) and “Perpetual” is every bit of a Nine Inch Nails track as you’d imagine. With an attack on sound, the body of these tracks are dark and feel like they’re trying to find order but both play at the confusion and fear quite eloquently felt by the film’s characters through heavy beats with dark frequencies and detail.
The climatic “Technically, Missing” plays over the big reveal and is a landmark track, encapsulating every feeling through airy crescendos and is bound to give the listener heavy chills. While it is a dividing point in the whole record, it feeds thought to listeners of the limitless possibilities that could take place but again, build up into a completely different direction (as heard in “Consummation”). It’s loud, alarming and feeds the perfect dose of anxiety and fear.
The record which experiments with orchestral strings and other exotic instruments is confounding and gets increasingly darker and creepier through every track. While much of the album sounds like the perfect progression of Reznor’s phenomenal Nine Inch Nails 2008 album, Ghosts I-IV and the Reznor-Ross collaboration for The Social Network, the soundtrack is delicately crafted on the instruction from Fincher to write “spa music”.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, the director said he was listening to spa music while getting his back fixed and knew this was a placating sound they needed to tap into, saying “The movie is about the facade of the good neighbor, the good Christian, the good wife. So the notion was to start with music that’s attempting to give you a hug.”
While Ross tells the WSJ that cinema is the one place left where “people can switch off their lives”, the two of them perceive their musical contribution to film as a rare opportunity to immerse the audience into a collective artistic experience. Reznor says, “As a musician, it gets back to being able to emotionally connect with somebody. At the end of the day, what matters to me is that I can get what’s in my head into your ears.”
Gone Girl is an alluring, beautiful and creepy soundtrack, capturing the depth of this dark and twisted story so well. Organic, cold, and icy—it’s by far Ross and Reznor’s best collaboration yet, and maybe even the best of 2014. It’s unlike any other score in previous years and expands on the traditional film scores with depth and a somber punch through every track. With Reznor’s NIN background and past sounds, the brooding electronic drones and lush crescendos reflect the duality of this film’s fantasy facade. Ross balances out Reznor’s take on music quite well, helping blur the lines between mainstream and industrial sounds. Their work and dynamic reflects perfectly onscreen with this aggressive and chilling score.
Without giving away the film and spoiling the plot for those that haven’t read the novel or seen the film yet, this soundtrack is worth everything this season—it’s dark, bitter, and everything you expect out of a David Fincher/Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross collaboration. With its detailed dualities of sound playing perfectly to the intricacies of a dark mind, this score helps to reveal what these troubled characters never will to the audience. If the film leaves you feeling pensive or like you’ve dove into the deep end of life, then this soundtrack will haunt you to the core.