THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES – Mike Patton
Original Review by Jonathan Broxton
The Place Beyond the Pines is a crime drama directed by Derek Cianfrance and starring Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Rose Byrne and Ray Liotta. Set in Schenectady, New York, over a 20-year period, the film is a riveting drama about fathers and sons, and the ramifications that the actions of one generation can have on the next. Gosling stars as motorcycle daredevil Luke Glanton, who turns to a life of crime robbing banks in order to provide for his baby son, Jason, and the mother, Romina (Mendes), who accepts Luke’s help only reluctantly. Luke’s increasing desperation brings him into contact with Avery Cross (Cooper), a Schenectady cop with a family history of running for political office, who is dealing with a shaky marriage to his wife Jennifer (Byrne) and a young son named AJ, pressure from his own father, and his own discovery of corruption among his colleagues. The film takes some unexpected twists and turns in its second half – which I won’t reveal here – suffice to say that Cianfrance’s measured direction and languid pacing allows the film to develop into a slow-burning familial drama that is both hypnotic and engrossing, especially as the true depth of the generational secrets are revealed.
The music for The Place Beyond the Pines is by composer Mike Patton, who is still best known in the music world as the lead singer of the alternative metal band Faith No More in the 1990s, but whose musical experimentations have taken him to writing, producing and performing as a multi-instrumentalist across numerous genres and with dozens of collaborators. In the film music world, Patton made his debut writing music for the action movie sequel Crank: High Voltage in 2009, and he also wrote the score for the Italian-language drama La Solitudine dei Numeri Primi in 2010. The Place Beyond the Pines is his third feature film, and if the strength of this score is anything to go by, he may well have added another significant string to his already tightly-pulled musical bow.
But first, a word of warning to “conventional” score fans; The Place Beyond the Pines is not a conventional score. Patton’s music is a combination of electronic tones, electric and acoustic guitar accents, and a sampled choir – as far as I can tell there are no live orchestral instruments in play in the score at all. If you dislike any score music that doesn’t make use of a traditional orchestral complement, give this one a miss, because it won’t appeal to your sensibilities at all. For those whose tastes extend into the more unusual, however, The Place Beyond the Pines is worth exploring, as Patton certainly manages to do some interesting things with such a self-limiting palette.
Thematically, there are no real recurring elements which can be pointed to as a “main theme” or central melodic identity; the cue “The Snow Angel”, which features a lonely-sounding piano motif and languid accompanying chords, plays just once on the soundtrack, but features prominently in the film’s trailer and re-appears several times in the film itself, usually as an accompaniment to a tracking shot following a forlorn bike rider winding his way through a lonely road thickly lined with trees.
Instead, Patton is more concerned with textures and moods, creating a sense of loneliness and general despondency through the music which matches the pervading tone of the film; in The Place Beyond the Pines, no-one is ever really happy, and the past weighs down heavily on everyone. Patton’s score drifts hypnotically from one set piece to the next, alternating between light and dark, adding layers of gloom to the increasingly desperate central characters.
The highlights are certainly the cues where the chorus comes into play – the oppressively pretty opening track “Schenectady”, for example, more than insinuates that something is not right in the city for which the film is named, before moving on through the combination of voices and twinkling guitars of “Beyond the Pines” and the unusual “Coniferae”, which has a slightly skewed electric guitar riff and other processed effects. The conclusive “Handsome Luke” is a little more disturbing than most of its predecessors, making use of hard-edged industrial textures, a bigger percussion section, and brutally explosive, almost Goldenthal-esque sound design elements to capture the intensity of the film’s finale.
Several songs and classical pieces round off Milan’s album presentation. The dreamy rendition of Burt Bacharach’s “Please Stay” by Liverpudlian band The Cryin’ Shames from 1961 matches to mood of the rest of the score. The new recording of Italian composer Gregorio Allegri’s 17th century liturgical chant “Miserere Mei” by Vladimir Ivanoff and the Osnabrück Youth Choir is haunting and moving, as is the spellbinding performance of Estonian composer Arvo Pärt’s minimalist 1977 classical composition “Fratres”, reminding the listener of why it has inspired similar textural experiments by film composers ranging from James Horner to James Newton Howard. There’s even an equally mesmerizing cue from Ennio Morricone’s 1969 score for the film Cuore di Mamma entitled “Ninna Nanna Per Adulteri”, before the roughneck tones of indie folk rock band Bon Iver bring the album to a close with “The Wolves – Act I and II”.
I can’t quite explain why I enjoyed the score for The Place Beyond the Pines as much as I did, because it’s not really the type of music I usually go for. It might be something to do with the way it gives the film itself an appropriately overwhelming mood of impending tragedy, or Patton’s intelligent way of arranging his collages of sounds into fascinating musical effects. Whatever the reason is, I found The Place Beyond the Pines to be an oddly affecting, unusually fascinating score which veers significantly from the mainstream.
Buy the Place Beyond the Pines soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store
- Schenectady (2:44)
- Family Trees (2:04)
- Bromance (4:04)
- Forest of Conscience (3:22)
- Beyond the Pines (1:21)
- Evergreen (2:16)
- Misremembering (3:55)
- Sonday (2:26)
- Coniferae (1:16)
- Eclipse of the Son (1:54)
- The Snow Angel (1:45)
- Handsome Luke (4:13)
- Please Stay (written by Burt Bacharach and Rob Hilliard, performed by The Cryin’ Shames) (3:17)
- Miserere Mei (written by Gregorio Allegri, perfomed by Vladimir Ivanoff and the Osnabrück Youth Choir) (5:30)
- Fratres for Strings and Percussion (written by Arvo Pärt, performed by Rudolf Werthen and I Fiamminghi) (10:18)
- Ninna Nanna Per Adulteri (written by Ennio Morricone) (3:07)
- The Wolves – Act I and II (written by Justin Vernon, performed by Bon Iver) (5:22)
Running Time: 58 minutes 56 seconds
Milan Records (2013)
Music composed and performed by Mike Patton. Recorded and mixed by Mike Patton. Edited by Mike Patton and Eric Holland. Album produced by Mike Patton, Stefan Karrer and J.C. Chamboredon.