Scene & Heard (Week 3) – The Woman

Written by UTG critic Grace Duffy, Scene & Heard takes a look at the music that makes our favorite films so memorable. Whether it’s the 400-piece orchestra Christopher Nolan used for The Dark Knight, or the dozen or so bands that contributed to the soundtrack of Top Gun, there is no denying the impact music has on movies and this column hopes to highlight the best of the best.

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PLEASE NOTE: The views expressed in this article relate to the soundtrack/score of the film and the thoughts of the author (Grace Duffy) alone. The Woman is easily one of the year’s most controversial films and definitely made for everyone. In the coming weeks we will feature more on this film, written by other writers, and hope you will take everyone’s view into consideration when deciding about this upcoming film

I should acknowledge from the off that the outright weirdness of this movie makes writing about anything, even its soundtrack, difficult. The latter isn’t bad at all, though it doesn’t really fit the movie it’s accompanying. It has none of the wannabe provocation of the film. What courses through this more than anything is dullness, the perfectly dull ordinariness of everyday life. And not just how tedious and nondescript it is, but how horrifically disturbing behavior can be normal for some people. It’s lifelessness and grim acceptance, much like the film, bland with the monotony of existing purely to exist.

It works pretty much like a textbook soundtrack, using different thrills and quirks to illuminate specific moments on screen. The music is used pretty sparsely in the film itself, perhaps deliberately to add to the slightly surreal sense of detachment that prevails throughout. When it does pop up, it’s often somewhat at odds with what’s going on onscreen – involving rock strains such as “What Really Hurts” and “JH2” differ starkly from the lecherous, alienating behaviour taking place. These are good songs in and of themselves, but they’re used a little too obviously. The sonic accompaniment to the titular character’s discovery for instance is cool and impulsive, lending far too predictable a twang to the perving that goes on before she’s actually captured. It could be intended to distract the viewer from how bizarrely depraved Chris Cleek’s (Sean Bridger) actions are, suggesting you see things through his eyes, as a game and a challenge as opposed to an abduction and false imprisonment.

The music also has a tendency to cut off somewhat abruptly, in keeping with the hidden horrors and wealth of unexpected (and unthinkable) going on behind the scenes. This can work in the context of the film’s events, as everything gradually unfolds, and yet another terrible secret comes creeping out from the darkness. It makes it a tad difficult to really get immersed in either music or film, but this is not a picture whose events you’d want to get involved with anyway.

I can’t help but feel that the soundtrack was inserted as a cop out to give the film more mass appeal. It’d be too obvious to give something like this, with its sordid and unsettling storyline, a similarly troubling musical score and signpost the weirdness from the off. That it has a generic rock soundtrack might be some grandiose statement about how crazed psychopaths can occupy the same everyday position in our communities, or it could be an attempt to make the audience slightly more comfortable as they take in what’s happening.

There are some muted indie tracks also, slow-burning and grim, used in some of the school scenes as if to suggest disillusionment with your class and everyday life, tedium, and searing plainness. “Distracted” and “Wild Rabbit” fit this mould, the former even stretched out over a five minute running time to match the apparent endlessness of the predicament at hand. “The War At Night” sounds anxiously like Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” at first – tis a pity they didn’t use the latter, people might be able to associate it with something more painful than that awkward Watchmen scene for once.

The country sounds of “Complicated Woman” keep with the rural setting, while the languor of “Patient Satellite” seems to match the inevitable acceptance of a certain character’s plight. The latter, along with several other tracks, seems to touch on the lives of the characters with lyrics such as “he doesn’t treat you right” doing the rounds. “Time to Die” serenades exactly what it says on the tin, and “Deeper than an Unmuddied Lake” is just as acutely at odds with the ending as the rest of the music and the rest of the film. It accompanies what is, if not a happy ending, a decent one in a rather twisted way and barely lasts two minutes.

The soundtrack is, thus, eclectic when viewed alongside the film, in that it’s banal and uniform and very, very ordinary. The film is bleaker, more miserable, squarely apart from what this radio-friendly fare would imply. Perhaps disassociating the two will do more for its appeal – it’s not an original soundtrack by any means, but something you’ll prefer remembering instead of the movie.

Written by: Grace Duffy

James Shotwell
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