My first Nine Inch Nails album was The Fragile. This double album, seething with metallic angst, paired well with my high doses of Rage Against the Machine and Tool in high school. At the peak of my fandom, I even saw NIN with my dad at Lollapalooza (skipping Kanye on the other side of the park). That light show though…
I forgot Trent and his other projects during college and instead bathed myself in a wave of too-cool tunes. During my last semester I took a class on film music. It was the first time the course had been offered so the students shaped it quite a bit. For one project, we picked a lesser-known film composer to research. Trying my best to appear slightly irreverent, I chose Reznor who had just scored two of David Fincher films.
In a recent roundtable with the Hollywood Reporter, Reznor describes taking the bulk of his artistic cues from sound design and a sense of place. He’s an unlikely rockstar who’s equally at home in the experimental and headbanger’s ball realms. The marathon instrumental Ghosts I-IV and albums like The Fragile tow this line. Fincher clearly admired Reznor’s aesthetic when he used NIN’s nihilistic anthem “Closer” in the opening credits for Se7en.
Years later, when Fincher asked him to score the founding of Facebook, Reznor says he was excited but skeptical of his abilities. In the end, the incessant bleeps nailed the Zuckerberg juggernaut at work and earned Reznor and his partner Atticus Ross an Oscar. Next they collaborated on Fincher’s adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. If The Social Network is machines working in consonance, Dragon Tattoo is technology disintegrating–prepared piano in duet with nails on a chalkboard.
Gone Girl continues in this dark and noble tradition. The sounds and visuals share an affinity with American Beauty and the notion that unimaginable acts lurk just below our pastoral lifestyles. The score rumbles at the lazy pace of Ozark speech, where much of the film takes place. However, Gone Girl is also about perspective, in our personal lives and in the media. It’s all relative, we learn, and the sounds are Jekyll and Hyde.
Reznor and Ross have crafted a serious contender this year, though Hans Zimmer’s organ bombast in Interstellar is also striking (sadly Antonio Sanchez’s all-percussion score for Birdman didn’t qualify). While we wait for a winner, watch this crucial sound cue from The Social Network.
UPDATE: Alexandre Desplat won the Oscar for The Grand Budapest Hotel, a good score but not his best work IMO.