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THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO – Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

December 27, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

There’s a lot of discussion going on in film music circles these days about the direction the art is taking, and a lot of it stems from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s Oscar win for their score for The Social Network last year. Amongst many mainstream film critics, Reznor and Ross’s ambient drones are seen as ushering a newer, better way of scoring films, one that moves away from the “schmaltzy emotional manipulation” written by the likes of John Williams and James Horner, and instead embraces a cold, clinical musical style that is more akin to sound effects than traditional film music. In his review of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Variety film critic Justin Chang said the score “blends dread with driving momentum, establishing a richly unsettling mood with recurring dissonances, eerie wind chimes and pulsating reverb effects”. In his simultaneously-published review of War Horse, he criticized the film for “a cloying strain of bucolic whimsy driven by John Williams’ pushy score”, so you see what we’re up against.

Unsurprisingly, my personal opinion is directly opposed to Chang’s. In an interview I gave to film music journalist Tom Hoover for his book Soundtrack Nation in 2010, I said “I understand that not all films require big, bold themes, and that there is a definite place for understatement, but you have to remember that film music, at its core, is all about emotion. I think it was Alfred Newman who said that 80% of the emotion you feel while watching a film is directly attributable to the music, so it stands to reason that if the music is being intentionally diminished to the point where you can’t tell whether it’s music or not, then you’re not going to get the same emotional reaction from the film.”

Of course, a film like The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo doesn’t require a great deal of orchestral histrionics. It’s a dark, brutal story of murder and violence set in the snowy wastes of northern Sweden. Based on the exceptionally popular novel by the late Stieg Larsson, the film stars Daniel Craig as investigative journalist Mikael Blomqvist, who is hired by wealthy industrialist Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) to investigate the disappearance of his niece, Harriet, some 40 years previously. Meanwhile, punk computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) has been hired by another company to monitor Mikael’s activity, and contacts Mikael when she solves some of the puzzles that Mikael could not; working together, the unlikely pair find out more about the Vanger family than Henrik intended, involving generations of corruption and murder.

Trent Reznor has, of course, been the recipient of a great deal of praise and acclaim for his work with his industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails, and rightly so: they were a groundbreaking group in their time, and I like a great many of their songs. Atticus Ross has been Reznor and NIN’s producer for many years, and as such also deserves our respect and acclaim. Unfortunately, much like The Chemical Brothers and their score for Hanna earlier this year, the pair have virtually no understanding of the narrative requirements of film music, the subtleties and nuances of which seem to be completely beyond them. Hanna, of course, was named Best Score of 2011 by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association – of which our friend, the aforementioned Justin Chang, is secretary.

In the film, Reznor and Ross’s score veers between understated nothingness and outright inappropriateness. In one scene set in an apartment building, one of the characters walks past a man using a buffer to polish the floor, and almost immediately Reznor’s music begins to mimic the sound of the buffer, for no apparent reason, and continues to do so for several pointless minutes. Elsewhere, in a scene set in an office conference room, Reznor underscores the important expositional dialogue with a low, irritating hum and a series of inexplicable electronic bleeps, which took me completely out of the film, to the point where I looked up at the cinema’s speakers to check whether they were broken and emitting smoke (it’s heard on the album in “People Lie All the Time”).

When the score isn’t jarringly distracting, it’s virtually inaudible or indistinguishable from the film’s sound effects, begging the question of why the music is there in the first place. I would argue that if the score does nothing to enhance the emotion of the film because it’s either too low in the sound mix, or is written in such a way that it’s virtually indistinguishable from source music and sound effects, then what purpose does the score serve? What is its basic function? If you can’t hear it, and can’t feel it, why is it there?

On CD, in general terms, the score is little more than a series of ambient drones, overlaid with various industrial sound effects and staccato rhythms – de-tuned piano chords, plucked bass notes, and the like. The six-track promo released by Reznor earlier in the year includes the cues “Hidden in Snow”, “People Lie All the Time”, “What If We Could?”, “Oraculum”, “Please Take Your Hand Away” and “Under the Midnight Sun”. Running for just over half an hour, it provides a satisfactory overview of pretty much everything the score has to offer for anyone interested in seeing what all the fuss is about. The three hour complete score released on Reznor’s personal label, Null Corporation, is barely tolerable, and should be reserved only for those who actually enjoyed the score in context (i.e., masochists) or the hard of hearing.

To move away from tongue-in-cheek flippancy, the album does have some cues of note. The cover version of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” by Karen Orzelek of The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, which was remixed by Reznor and Ross and plays over the film’s outstanding opening title sequence, is excellent, and stands as the musical high point of both film and CD, with its location-specific lyrics and primal scream chorus. Similarly, the cover version of Bryan Ferry’s “Is Your Love Strong Enough?” by How To Destroy Angels features a soulful vocal performance by the group’s lead singer, Reznor’s wife Mariqueen Maandig, that is also very good.

A few of the 37 score cues do merit some mention for a brief musical moment of worth: the opening “She Reminds Me Of You” has a child-like metallic motif that jingles in a bizarre, almost Christmassy way over a synth drone; “Pinned and Mounted” has an insistent, urgent percussion rhythm that underscores the terrible ordeal Lisbeth endures at the hands of her guardian; “What If We Could?” and “I Can’t Take It Any More” reprise the chilly piano/celesta motif in a cue of unexpected tonal quality, the latter with a female vocal effect by Maandig down in the mix; “A Thousand Details” and “Great Bird of Pray” have a roaring electric guitar that adds to the contemporary setting, as well as Lisbeth’s own musical tastes.

Elsewhere on the album, “An Itch” pits a detuned piano beat against a bed of pulsating synth rhythms and squeaky industrial dance-music effects in a way that is s unexpectedly engaging; “A Pause for Reflection”, “While Waiting”, “Millennia” and “A Pair of Doves” work chimes, bells and the female vocalist back into the equation, giving the score an isolated, chilly demeanor. “The Seconds Drag” mimics a ticking clock, “Parallel Timeline with Alternate Outcome” and “Revealed in the Thaw” feature the briefest semblances of an actual theme performed on a solo piano – two of the score’s few melodic high spots – while the driving “Infiltrator” has a high energy rhythm that at times is quite engaging, despite the 1980s computer game sound effects that appear half way through the track.

Beyond these few moments, though, the score is for the most part worthless, providing little more than various percussive rhythms and sub-industrial drones that go on and on and on over the course of three mind-numbing hours. It’s not that I can’t tolerate scores that are predominantly synth-based – many of my recent reviews dispel that myth. It’s more that the almost total lack of structure, depth, or actual musical intellectual language flies in the face of everything I love about film music. Praising scores like this, which are superficial by design, is an insult to all those composers who have spent years honing their craft, learning technique and orchestration and counterpoint and harmony, and who don’t get the acclaim or reward they so deserve. You only have to think about the scores written by David Fincher’s previous musical collaborators for his earlier films – Howard Shore on Se7en and The Game, Elliot Goldenthal on Alien 3, even David Shire on Zodiac – to get a sense of what kind of a score this film could have had. Orchestral and thematic and tonal doesn’t have to mean happy and pretty; dark, brutal, brooding, menacing music perfect for Lisbeth Salander could very easily have come from the pen of any of these men, and the music would have had a much more rich and fulfilling compositional language at the same time.

Even Reznor’s composing process is radically different from the norm: whereas most composers will write music with a specific scene in mind, tailoring it to fit the emotional needs of the film at any given time, referring backwards and forwards to musical points elsewhere in the movie to create a tapestry that links concepts, characters and locations together, Reznor presents his director with “big chunks that are three-or eight-minute suites. They go from here and travel around the corner and go underground and come back up and wind up over there. We do not have 30 15-second beats of sound.” While other composers have written music in this way before – notably Gustavo Santaollala on Brokeback Mountain and Hans Zimmer on Inception – Reznor’s approach really crystallizes what I feel is wrong with his scores. He’s not really writing film music; he’s writing a series of instrumental textures that just happen to accompany a movie, and which are needle-dropped into place by the director whenever he thinks he needs music, with no regard for any conceptual specificity, no thought about the ‘bigger picture’, no structure, and no way of giving the audience any cues as to the emotional intent of the scene.

This obsession with not spoon-feeding the audience emotional content via music is one of the most bizarre and misguided opinions of recent years; film is all about audience manipulation, making them empathize with the characters on screen. Directors have no qualms about manipulating the audience’s emotions by, for example, using colored filters in the cinematography, or by using a quick-cut editing style, so why is the music singled out as being as a scapegoat for the Hollywood schmaltz machine? When I watch a movie or listen to its score, I WANT to be moved, to be scared, to be exhilarated, to feel the joyous rapture of love, and a million other emotions. That’s the whole point.

I didn’t want to turn this review into a rant against the direction contemporary film music is going, but I care deeply about this genre, and I couldn’t help it. I’ve spent half my life listening to, and loving, and championing this music and its composers, and to see it stripped down and under-valued in this way affects me on a personal level. With their Oscar win for The Social Network and the immense acclaim their score for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo has received, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross are clearly on the forefront of contemporary film scoring, and are likely to prove influential to other film makers in future who want to recapture the vibe and mainstream popularity they encompass. This disturbs me greatly, because it marginalizes and trivializes everything I have loved about film music for the past 20 years, shoving it into a box marked “old fashioned” and “sappy”. Call me elitist, call me snobbish, call me out of touch, I don’t care. I know what I love, and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is not it.

Rating: *

Buy the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Immigrant Song (written by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, performed by Karen O with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross) (2:47)
  • She Reminds Me of You (4:25)
  • People Lie All the Time (4:10)
  • Pinned and Mounted (5:04)
  • Perihelion (6:01)
  • What If We Could? (4:08)
  • With the Flies (7:41)
  • Hidden in Snow (5:19)
  • A Thousand Details (3:58)
  • One Particular Moment (7:00)
  • I Can’t Take It Anymore (1:48)
  • How Brittle the Bones (1:49)
  • Please Take Your Hand Away (6:00)
  • Cut Into Pieces (4:03)
  • The Splinter (2:32)
  • An Itch (4:09)
  • Hypomania (5:47)
  • Under the Midnight Sun (7:01)
  • Aphelion (3:33)
  • You’re Here (3:29)
  • The Same as the Others (3:08)
  • A Pause for Reflection (4:11)
  • While Waiting (2:17)
  • The Seconds Drag (4:33)
  • Later Into the Night (4:55)
  • Parallel Timeline with Alternate Outcome (6:32)
  • Another Way of Caring (7:02)
  • A Viable Construct (3:15)
  • Revealed in the Thaw (2:47)
  • Millennia (1:19)
  • We Could Wait Forever (4:21)
  • Oraculum (8:31)
  • Great Bird of Prey (5:19)
  • The Heretics (5:20)
  • A Pair of Doves (2:02)
  • Infiltrator (7:03)
  • The Sound of Forgetting (2:30)
  • Of Secrets (3:25)
  • Is Your Love Strong Enough? (written by Bryan Ferry, performed by How To Destroy Angels) (4:30)

Running Time: 173 minutes 59 seconds

Null Corporation 2 (2011)

Music composed, arranged and performed by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Special vocal performances by Mariqueen Maandig. Recorded and mixed by Alan Moulder, Michael Patterson and Blumpy. Edited by Marie Ebbing and Jonathan Stevens. Album produced by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.

  1. December 28, 2011 at 1:05 am

    Great review and I strongly agree with you! I’m also the guy who finds this score barely tolerable. I guess some people out there have just make too rush decision by saying fresh-sounded electronic score is a great score, which is wrong & narrow perspective. I can say that composers like Hans Zimmer, Harry Gregson-Williams, James Newton Howard, and Craig Armstrong have also been in the similar situation to compose this kind of score before and they have achieved them much better than this; either in sound or emotion. If The Academy Award gives them another best original score this year, it will totally be a mockery to fim music industry.

  2. Luc Van der Eeken
    December 28, 2011 at 3:37 am

    You are 100 % right. I grew up with Williams, Goldsmith and Horner and the way film music is going is downright scary! A lot of younger directors (and unfortunately the new generation of critics) seem to embrace this kind of…sound. It’s beyond me. If you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna give ‘War Horse’ a spin now.

  3. Thomas Allen
    December 28, 2011 at 5:55 am

    Splendid review!

  4. December 28, 2011 at 9:35 am

    I couldn’t have said it better myself, Jon. A superbly written review.

  5. December 28, 2011 at 10:03 am

    An excellent review! I don’t think anyone could have put out the problems with modern film music in any better way. There is some true passion here! Great review!

  6. December 28, 2011 at 10:58 am

    Great review Jon. I think that even though you called this a bit of a rant, it really is a well reasoned response to the overwhelming hype for this type of scoring. All art goes through trends like this, where something new becomes exciting to audiences and critics. Usually it passes. But there is always the danger of this type of thing eclipsing the older and still valuable styles. That’s what disturbs me most about these types of trends. Hollywood is always quick to grasp new trends but really loathe to let them go, because they are afraid of to lose any money because of a change.

    I also see why a director may like to have the composer present them with suites of music that they can needle-drop to a scene. It gives the director, what they perceive, an extra element of control. Directors like Nolan and Fincher have a very solid vision of what they want and exercise a great deal of control over all the elements of production. To them, not having direct control over the music, its creation and its final application could feel like a drawback. This “new” way of scoring appears to put more power in their hands.

    But it goes against the other main concept of film making – the collaborative process. When you hire a professional composer, you are hiring them for their experience, their skills and their knowledge of what works for a film. The director should be able to express what he wants clearly to the composer and trust the composer to meet those needs. If directors like Fincher and Nolan don’t feel they can get what they want out of “traditional” composers, they maybe they need to make like Clint Eastwood and start scoring their own films. 🙂

  7. Captain Future
    December 28, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    During the 1970ies there was a period of pop and disco dominated film scores. And then along came STAR WARS. So there is always hope! And there has always been ambient film scoring. Remember PLANET OF THE APES or FORBIDDEN PLANET?

    I am a grammar school teacher. (I don’t teach English!) I have noticed, that the perception of films by the younger audience has changed. This applies for boys more then for girls. Most of the films that get the noise-score treatment are boys-flims. Children tend not to get involveld emotionally too much any more while watching a film. They distance themselves from what they are seeing (and hearing). Some call this a cynical demanour but I believe that is superficial. A John-Williams-kind of score can be a contradiction to that poise. I recently asked a student of mine how he liked STAR WARS ANH. He said that he found the music distracting. I had not asked him about the music. He also said he liked the general story but he did not like “that religious thing”.

    Maybe all those “making ofs” are partly to blame. They ruin the illusion. Probably it’s a general phenomenon. Today’s youth grows up surrounded by electronic media, in a world defined by electronic media. The feature film is just a fraction of it. They know how it is done, they do it themselves on their I-things. Some children become bored during action films because they cannot take part in the action. Their perception is defined by videogames. They feel shut out. So they distance themselves from what is going on. A manipulating music score might then be regarded as a hoax.

    Films that are mainly watched by a female audiance still get more traditional scores. The same goes for films for mixed audiences like HARRY POTTER.

    So these are my thoughts about these matters.
    What do you think?


  8. December 29, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    Hey Jon, fantastic review as always! Very much agree with you. Just saw the film a few days ago (which for what it’s worth, although well-made, I found inferior to the original film in almost every way)–and certainly one of those problems is the score, if it can even be called that. As if I wasn’t already depressed enough by the music itself, and how it functions in the film, I am even more depressed reading about Reznor’s scoring methods, basically these guys are just creating custom Temp Scores, except not even that, cause if there’s no themes or no development/structure, then that should barely even count as an original film score at all.

    Anyways, I had been hearing people talk crap about the album experience but saying that the music at least worked well in the movie… so naturally I was eager to see the film and see what I thought… and well–I agree with you. Even in the context of the film itself, I thought the music did not fit hardly ever! In fact, at several points I was almost laughing, because it all felt so “amateur” to me, not just in terms of music, but in terms of being a film score, accompanying the visual experience, it just failed completely at several moments, or was annoyingly distracting. Frankly, even in “Social Network” I thought the music at least Worked in context (even if i didn’t appreciate it), but it fit the tone of the piece. But here, it just feels so random and experimental. Granted, there were bits and pieces that I found interesting, basically the few moments were there were hints of a melody (mostly just those twisted “lullaby”/jingle type sounds). I know people have argued that the music is a perfect match the the film’s dark, cold environments and mood, but it sure didn’t for me. It practically Never helped increase my emotional connection in the film, often drew me consciously Out of it.

    Again to mention the original Swedish film, scored by Jacob Groth. Though certainly no classic, I thought that was a great example of a score taking on plenty of more modern elements and styles, industrial/synth/techno moments, but still wrapped in a largely orchestral/traditional score, and a score that knew that certain moments still are Best when given a full orchestral statement. What is the world coming to?

  9. Kevin
    December 29, 2011 at 6:28 pm

    If you want to hear a great, recently-released orchestral score that counteracts this, check out Thomas Newman’s score to “The Iron Lady.”

  10. Uncritic
    January 3, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    I enjoyed your article and understand your view, but in my view, you are up against some very solid intellectual and (film)musical opinions (my own included), well presented in Adorno and Eisler`s seminal book from 1947, Composing for the Films, amongst others. Eisler`s film music illustrates the benefits of not spoon-feeding the audience with a sleeping draught of pre-digested emotional content, and there were many who followed his example, e.g. Benjamin Frankel. These were serious, classically-trained musicians. Offering a musical counterpoint to what is presented on the screen can be very powerful; dissonance and discontinuity disturb and make people think and question things. Some directors, starting with Eisenstein, want this use of discord to disturb and enhance the effect. It certainly makes for more interesting viewing than simply repeating what is obvious on the screen. I think there is room for elements of both, even in the same film, depending on the vision of the director and the cliches already sitting in society. The images and the music are only two of the elements that contribute to a film`s impact – if the music merges with other sound effects at times, maybe that`s the point. Varying degrees of organisation of acoustic noise. (But great debate!)

  11. Nandopower
    January 5, 2012 at 6:41 pm

    Sorry, but you sound like one of those old men talking shit about how modern music is not “real music” at all and how much better was the music from your good old days while today’s experimental music is ruining your well loved traditional rock & roll. “Aphex Twin? That’s just noisy crap, good music were The Beatles. Give me a good traditional guitar driven tune written by Nickelback and not that noisy shit by Nine Inch Overrated Nails.” Uh…. ok.

    Don’t worry, traditional orquestal scores with big themes will never disappear just because a few are trying to do different new things, the same way you can still buy the most noisy weirdy experimental electronic album published by a label like Warp and you can also find pretty easily a billion bands playing music that sounds exactly the same you could hear 40 years ago with just guitars, bass and drums playing fine catchy melodies.

    • February 3, 2012 at 8:46 pm

      Hm. I’d like it if you could define “good music”. Right now, it seems to me that “catchy melodies” equals “good music”.
      Also, the reason why the reviewer finds that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo isn’t real music is because it doesn’t honor the art of film scoring. Have you ever studied orchestration? Have you ever tried to understand how and why instruments can complement one another in performance? Have you analyzed entire orchestral scores and admired the lines of counterpoint, the choice in time signature, the construct of the themes? The point is, orchestral scores are a very fine art, and it takes years to learn how to come out with music. It’s why we reject The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’s score. The artists took no time trying to learn the art, and instead came out with a piece of ambience that lacks the power and intelligence of orchestral music. If anyone could write good film music, there wouldn’t be an industry for it.

  12. January 5, 2012 at 10:04 pm

    It’s amazing to be how many people are completely misunderstanding the point I’m making in this review. Nowhere in this review did I say that TGWTDT needed a “traditional orchestral scores with big themes”, or that the approach of ambient minimalism was wrong. The point I’m making is that R&R don’t understand the narrative requirements of film, and have written a score which IS NOT FILM MUSIC, and doesn’t address the narrative needs of the story in any way.

    The point is this. If you had given Howard Shore or Elliot Goldenthal this exact same instrumental palette – synths, chimes, prepared piano, voices – and the score would have been immeasurably better because they know how to structure the music, and provide their scores with a great deal of intellectual depth. R&R fail to do that on every level, and that’s what I’m railing against. It’s not even that R&R are especially experimental – people have been writing music like this since the 1950s (the Barrons, Tristram Cary, Delia Derbyshire, even Karl-Heinz Stockhausen) – without much acclaim. R&R are getting the plaudits because of *who* they are, not because they are especially good or groundbreaking at what they are doing.

    • bozpictures
      January 6, 2012 at 4:42 am

      “And that’s just your opinion against the opinions of tons of people that think they have done an excellent job.”

      I’ll take Mr Broxton’s informed and thought-out opinion over the ‘tons of people”s anytime, just because, well, you guessed it : it is informed and thought-out. And just because tons of people like something at one point doesn’t mean it will endure. That’s the meaning of a fad.

    • ronald
      February 7, 2012 at 8:25 am

      Why the hell would Reznor, let alone Atticus Ross, get plaudits for who he is in freakin Hollywood?? Thats like Obama getting an applause from Ron Pauls family. or something alike.

      It’s just a bunch of critics and juries awarding R&R with praise, golden watches and lots of cash, just a niche little group of cheering people… who know good music like NIN and are releaved such character and honesty is moving in the scoring realm.

      What fad? Like millions of people are listening to this. Relatively no one knows about this or score music in general.

      Watch Trent working next time with an orchestra or with more narrative, which he is capable of if you know his work like The Fragile.

  13. Nandopower
    January 5, 2012 at 11:32 pm

    And that’s just your opinion against the opinions of tons of people that think they have done an excellent job.

    You are the one talking about how “R&R” are ruining your beloved film score industry with their horredous work just because people have liked their two scores or The Chemical Brothers’ one for Hanna, you just sound like an old man digressing about how much new artists/musicians suck compared to what the old good ones used to do, just read your own review again, it sounds like nostalgic crap, sorry.

    Much of your criticism also should be directed to Fincher, who is the one that has asked them for this kind of score (no orchestal stuff, no big themes, the use of bells as instruments, minimalist ambient stuff, etc, all of that was demanded by Fincher among other things in both of R&R’s scores for him so far, Reznor has said several times that he was excited about working with an orchesta for both movies but Fincher didn’t want that kind of music for either of them), and he is the one that has allowed them to work the way they work (writing music even before the movie is filmed, edited and finished, while most composers work with a finished/edited product), and he is the one that chooses where and how to use the music they provide (R&R give Fincher lots of music without really knowing how, when and where it will be used in the film, and that’s once again Fincher’s decision, for example when they wrote “Hands Cover Bruise” for TSN they never knew it would be used during the initial credits scene, Reznor explained this like a billion times and how he just watched the scene in a screening with Fincher without previously knowing that track would be used there).

    Thus much of your criticism would be Fincher’s fault, while in the other hand if you ask me if the music they write is any good, I just have to say it’s fucking fantastic and denying this is just fucking retarded because their music is not bad at all, a very different point would be if said music is being well used in the film or if this kind of music fits well in a film like this or if R&R’s way of work is the best for a film, but all of this is Fincher’s decision and everybody is entitled to have their own different opinions, but it’s Fincher the one that has told them what to do and how to do it, before TSN Reznor had never scored a film and he has admitted to have no idea about how to do it, so he just does the best work he can under Fincher’s direction, and so far almost everybody seems to like what he (or they) has (have) done, blaming them or the people that like their work for ruining traditional film scoring is just ridiculous and bashing their work for it is even worse when their music is excellent no matter how much you seem to dislike it.

    • Trent Easton Navarro
      January 20, 2012 at 6:56 pm

      If we were on a social network, I’d “like” this comment

    • Brad
      January 30, 2012 at 6:24 pm

      Are you even reading his responses? I don’t think you are…

  14. nandopower
    January 6, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    bozpictures :
    “And that’s just your opinion against the opinions of tons of people that think they have done an excellent job.”
    I’ll take Mr Broxton’s informed and thought-out opinion over the ‘tons of people”s anytime, just because, well, you guessed it : it is informed and thought-out. And just because tons of people like something at one point doesn’t mean it will endure. That’s the meaning of a fad.

    Yeah, just because he is a critic he must obviously know more about films and music than everybody else in the world.

    He must know more than other critics that have praised these 2 scores or than all the people that have given R&R like a billion awards for their previous work (oscar, golden globe, american critics association and awards from most of the critics associations in almost every american city) and a current nomination for the GG (also given by critics). All those critics and professionals obviously have a much more limited knowledge about films or music than the critics on this website, who must obviously know much more about these arts than me or any other person on Earth that have been watching films and listening music for ages but don’t write about it on the almighty internet.

    British critics>>>Rest of the world critics, that’s why everybody respects british music magazines like NME and many others that basically invented all the musical hypes/fads bullshit we have suffered for the last decades (much before Pitchfork).


    Obviosly this reviewer must know a lot about music for films, I don’t doubt that at all, but that does not mean that he is always right, and I think that I know a lot about films and music too, at least enough to know when something is pure crap or not, and there are tons of people who think like me about these scores and they are not blind or deaf, nor are just a bunch of retards that are following an horrendous musical trend/fad just to look cooler.

    I can enjoy a classical score by Bernard Herrmann, Morricone or Williams the same way I can enjoy R&R’s scores without thinking they will ruin film scoring forever, the same way I can listen to Led Zeppelin or Atari Teenage Riot (that for many LZ’s fans probably sound just like crappy noise), I just accept that there are different kinds of music and I just like most of them. And the same way I can listen to The Chemical Brothers’ score for Hanna or to this score for TGWTDT and enjoy them very much without even needing to listen to the music while watching the films, I like them just as music albums, because they are great music albums, if any of you think that they just don’t work as soundtracks/scores, well, that’s just your opinion/s against the opinions of many others that may know (or not) a lot more about these things than the writer of this review.

    I don’t mean to be disrespectful to this reviewer at all, I just strongly disagree with his opinion and I think that my opinion and many others’ opinions are as valid as his opinion, because he is not the only guy in the world who watches lots of films or listens to lots of music, just because he writes here doesn’t mean he is always right, he can be wrong or even contradict himself, since he gave a positive review for TSN’s score:


    He admitted that he liked it even if his musical tastes could suggest the contrary (thus implicitly admitting that he just doesn’t like these kind of scores now because of his musical tastes and not just because of the quality of these works), and now he doesn’t like R&R’s works and is the rest of the world, himself in the past included, the ones that are just wrong and following a fad because we don’t have his immense wisdom… ok. X-D

    • January 14, 2012 at 12:55 pm

      Hey, Nandopower, don’t be such an idiot and learn what real music is! Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross are both assholes, their “Social Network Shit” score sucked tremendously, and don’t come talking out stupid electronic-music-defence monologues, when you know film composers like Hans Zimmer and even Daft Punk would have made first-rate professional works.

      • January 17, 2012 at 12:40 pm

        Why, you’re a pleasant person, aren’t you? Saying “You’re wrong, the score sucked and you suck” is not an argument. It’s mere rudeness.

  15. Dogan Bilge
    January 7, 2012 at 6:55 am

    Excellent review Jon. I haven’t watched the film yet, but I just hope that the music doesn’t distract me and take me out of the film like it did for you, since I’m hoping to like this film. I didn’t like The Social Network score on album, but on film, it worked, and didn’t really take me out of it anywhere during. If R&R at least achieved that level of success (whether you can call it that), it’ll at least not ruin the film.

  16. January 7, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    Jon I think you need a hug or something.

    Here’s to not appreciating a non traditional approach. Easy to label it a fad, seeing that they have done just two soundtracks together. Both of which critically acclaimed. Let time tell us. Not to mention Ross’s approach for Book of Eli was the only redeeming aspect about that film.

    How many awards did Ross and Reznor win last year? Clearly it struck a cord. So what’s the common denominator here? Your unpopular thought or the success of two sonic guru’s who kicked the scoring world over on it’s head? Perhaps you can let it go, it’s another set of brushes to paint the canvas with. What’s wrong with that? They can coexist with the likes of zimmer and shore.

    Otherwise you simply sound like some bitter dinosaur.

  17. January 9, 2012 at 8:52 pm

    Hi again, I saw the film yesterday and it’s pretty impressive. However, the music doesn’t impress me at all, only the new version of “Immigrant Song” works well with the opening credit. I now can say that the music is poorly disturbing. My metaphor is that it makes the score like THE REPLACEMENT KILLERS (Harry Gregson-Williams) many years ago or even this year worst loud score like THE DARKEST HOUR (Tyler Bates) can likely be nominated for Golden Globe and Academy Awards if the film is so popular (fortunately, they don’t). I won’t have any problem with the score if it is not nominated for some big awards but because it is and it doesn’t seem to worth those awards. I really feel pity for them and fact that fad justifies the real value of best original score.

  18. Mike
    January 11, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    Hi Jon, thank you for a very thoughtful and passionate review. I have listened to film scores for more than twenty years now and I also fear that a tectonical shift is happing to this art form in a similar way as when Hans Zimmer brought his synthesizers into the industry in the late 80s. My major problem with this new trend is that the melodic part is nearly completely lost; I love to be manipulated by the score, I love it to be schmaltzy, to be overwhelming, to be scary … this is what music can do to the human being since the ages of Mozart and Beethoven so it adds a complete own dimension to a film which operates directly from the ears to your heart.

    Concerning Fincher: I really like him and his films, and I’m really curious about what he will do with his next large project “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”. I think this story needs an adventurous score but perhaps Fincher will try something unconventional. But I hope that the man that produced “Benjamin Button” with its great Desplat-Score will know what he needs for such a film and bring a real score composer back into the game.

  19. January 19, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    sporkaganza :
    Why, you’re a pleasant person, aren’t you? Saying “You’re wrong, the score sucked and you suck” is not an argument. It’s mere rudeness.

    I didn’t say “it sucked and you suck”, when it is a matter of the strength in a film’s score, R&R simply do not deliver the same greatness other composers would have. Nevertheless, I do not blame them entirely, since it is their work to make an incidental musical companion, wether it is suitable for any sane person to listen as an orchestral score or not. It should be reminded that they are NOT film musicians, and the fact that they are constantly awarded the same prizes as true music composers is an insult to professional men like John Williams, Hans Zimmer, Jerry Goldsmith, Michael Giacchino, Danny Elfman, Patrick Stewart, etc, etc, etc, etc……

  20. Brad
    January 30, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    People must not realize how not-progressive this music is… The idea’s been done; they’re only getting attention for their name recognition and how much of a pretense they make.

  21. ronald
    February 7, 2012 at 8:08 am

    stop the analyse, if you hate this its just cause you don’t like Trents/NIN way of writing which Fincher simply wanted. he has his own music style, perfect for a Libseth and Mark Z., which extra personalisizes these characters. thereby this is not for everyone. Reznors music was never mainstream and these score breathe NIN so this isn’t mainstream.

    ferther, stop whining about the package, Trent basically treats this as a NIN album at the same time and 1) is a free agent 2) makes up for the $$$. if one isnt greedy in the music industry its Trent Reznor. if you dont know get educated.

    • February 7, 2012 at 9:11 am

      I stopped reading as soon as you advised me to “stop the analyse”. This is a site which exists in order to analyze and critique and celebrate film music. If you don’t want analysys, why are you here?

  22. March 1, 2012 at 9:37 pm

    The reviewer completely missed the point of the soundtrack, apparently.

    The score works BECAUSE it is nonintrusive. It creeps in and leaving the listener with confused and often questionable complex emotion. It takes just as much talent to sculpt soundscapes as it does to compose counterpuntal scores. It takes just as much time to write them as well. All in all, it’s not the amount of work put into a piece but the piece it’s self that actually matters. No listener will praise music because of how inventive or difficult it was to write. Maybe to perform, but this discussion is about soundtracks, which are a means to an end.

    This article also seems to be directed more at a Cheng’s review than the album. I do not agree with Cheng, when he says that the soundtrack does not need emotions and lacks them. This soundtrack can bring out right terror and definitely anxiety, especially when watching the movie. This movie was also not a sappy Hollywood film, where everything is spoon fed to the audience and all is resolved or. So, criticizing the film and the score for not spoon feeding the audience emotion is out right malarky and in poor taste.

    I will agree with you that the placement of music at times is odd and seems to have a copy and paste effect throughout the movie. With that said, I would critique the editor more than the composer. Composers often write prolific amounts of music for movies, which are cut and edited down at someone else’s discretion.

    I’ve actually listened to the entire soundtrack back to back several times and can tell you that the “background almost nonexistent” effect is most certainly purposeful and correctly subtle. The storyline of the movie is already too heavy to be weighed down by an even more weighty voluminous score.

  23. March 1, 2012 at 9:41 pm

    Also I thought the cover version of Bryan Ferry’s “Is Your Love Strong Enough?” by How To Destroy Angels, was awful. It was actually more distracting than the rest of the music could ever be.

    Immigrant Song wasn’t remixed, it was a cover as well.

  24. Lexi
    April 7, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    “..it’s virtually inaudible or indistinguishable from the film’s sound effects, begging the question of why the music is there in the first place… it’s virtually indistinguishable from source music and sound effects, then what purpose does the score serve? What is its basic function?” Have you NEVER heard of lowercase music? Musique Concrète? Isolationism? Ambient? The entire point is to create an atmosphere, which it did brilliantly – there was nothing jarring whatsoever. Reminiscent of the very best work of Peter Christopherson, amongst others. I didn’t particularly care for the HtDA Ferry cover, but the score music itself was absolutely fantastic.

  25. Cpt. Rumplebump
    March 13, 2013 at 7:36 am

    This is quite a bitter review. I couldn’t imagine this movie with a traditional, orchestral score. Just think of the introduction scene, where snowy Hedestad is shown and the phone call arrives. Strings might have done the job, but it wouldn’t have prepared you for the atmosphere of the movie.

    Just because it’s done in a different way, it doesn’t mean that it’s bad. I like orchestral scores as well. They work for most movies. But so do ambient scores such as this one, and you fail to see how differing from “the proven procedures” (as the equally missing-the-point review on filmtracks.com puts it) can produce just as fitting results.

    Word of advice: Don’t get into video game scores. It’d just disgust you (or hurt, even) how people like Shoji Meguro disregard the “rules” and still create fantastic music.

  26. Brad
    March 13, 2013 at 10:08 am

    You, Cpt. Rumplebum, have also missed the point of his review entirely. Here’s Broxton’s response from before:

    “It’s amazing to be how many people are completely misunderstanding the point I’m making in this review. Nowhere in this review did I say that TGWTDT needed a “traditional orchestral scores with big themes”, or that the approach of ambient minimalism was wrong. The point I’m making is that R&R don’t understand the narrative requirements of film, and have written a score which IS NOT FILM MUSIC, and doesn’t address the narrative needs of the story in any way.
    The point is this. If you had given Howard Shore or Elliot Goldenthal this exact same instrumental palette – synths, chimes, prepared piano, voices – and the score would have been immeasurably better because they know how to structure the music, and provide their scores with a great deal of intellectual depth. R&R fail to do that on every level, and that’s what I’m railing against. It’s not even that R&R are especially experimental – people have been writing music like this since the 1950s (the Barrons, Tristram Cary, Delia Derbyshire, even Karl-Heinz Stockhausen) – without much acclaim. R&R are getting the plaudits because of *who* they are, not because they are especially good or groundbreaking at what they are doing.”

    • Cpt. Rumplebump
      March 13, 2013 at 12:04 pm

      It’s Cpt. Rumplebump, with a P.

      And sure, I have seen that reply. However, what “structure” would have been correct? Is there even such a thing as a “correct” structure for this score? And how is this score missing “intellectual depth”? What are the “narrative requirements” of this film, and how are they not being met by its score? Does the score even have to meet these requirements? Can it not just be a means of emphasizing on the atmosphere of the film? Because in my opinion, that job is being dealt with just fine.

  27. Brad
    March 13, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    My apologies on the name misspelling. The “p” is being cut off on my end.

    One can match the atmosphere of a film while still maintaining structure. A “correct” structure–at least a more seasoned, intellectual approach–would be the establishment of character themes, or at least an atmospheric soundscape that has motifs (or noises, in this case) to be identified with individuals, places, or events. That’s just the bare-minimum of intellectual approach to a film score.

    There’s a reason he notes Howard Shore and Elliot Goldenthal; these composers could have taken the same ensemble, indeed the same “sound”, and made it into something at least remotely coherent–maybe even audible. What R&R have done shows an approach to scoring that is juvenile at best and is obviously wearing on critics quickly (note the Oscar nomination “snub” of this score).

    If you want to resort to the old platitude as to whether there’s an empirically “correct” way to approach any art form, as reception is ultimately the opinion of the auditor/lister/viewer, then I’ll concede the buck stops there. But there is a measurable, indeed empirical maturity to scores by the works of Goldsmith, Williams, Shore, and Herrmann that is unquestionably lacking in those by R&R.

    The concept has long since been done (and done better) and there are those of us who question how bright of an idea it was in the first place.

  28. Graham Cliff
    September 14, 2013 at 7:50 pm

    Agreed. I tried to like this score but it was a waste of $12 save for The Immigrant Song. The best thing I can say about it is that it didn’t ruin the movie for me. But it didn’t add anything to it either. Instead of this score check out Jacob Groth’s music for the Swedish version. It mixes elements of Howard Shore’s The Silence of the Lambs and a bit of electronic. It has music. You know, a rhythm and a melody.

  29. R7L
    October 19, 2013 at 6:25 pm

    I actually noticed in the first time I saw The Social Network, the original score, it was not impressive, as it would be if it was an orchestral one, but I found it very adequated.
    The two main differences from this score for The Girl With The Dragoon Tattoo, is that, the only music capable of being noticed in the film, is the Led Zepplin’s Imigrant song, witch is very cool (big fan), and that the rest of the score doesn´t make any sense in the story. Is not because is minimalistic, or electronic, is because being there or not makes the same effect.
    About the film: The film title doesn´t make much sense either “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo”, the original title of the book is more suitable “Men Who Hate Women”.

  1. April 22, 2014 at 11:08 am
  2. September 29, 2014 at 11:40 pm

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