The Best Music in Film

Ken Loach

(Kes, Riff-Raff, Sweet Sixteen)

S&S: What is your favourite film soundtrack music and why do you like it so much?
"I guess it would have to be one of the old musicals, probably not West Side Story (1961) because the stage sound was better, but if I wanted to put on a soundtrack it would have to be Fred Astaire or someone."
S&S: In what ways does music best enhance a film?
"Well usually by it's absence! It's usually used in a way that exaggerates the emotion to make it sentimental or suspenseful, and covers cracks in the filmmaking, I think it has to be used very sparingly. It's like salt in cooking, you use to much and it just overpowers the flavour. It shouldn't be used to manipulate the audience – you might make an additional comment with the music that you want the audience to consider, but you don't manipulate their feelings in a dishonest way. Whatever the sensation it has to be earned by the content of the film, by that I mean the characters, relationships, events and the narrative, and not induced by the music. It can't replace these things. You don't weep for Hamlet because there is some offstage music; you weep because of the inexorable tragedy of his situation."
S&S: Which film either has music that you wished you'd written or is one you would like to rescore and why?
"It's not for me to judge whether it's effective or not, but the one example that comes to mind is George Fenton's development of the internazionale in Land and Freedom (1995) when some of the volunteers on the republican side have been killed in battle and they're being buried, and one man begins to sing the internazionale and it's taken up by the others around the grave, and then very gradually George introduced a drum, and then more instruments and gradually built a sense of overwhelming solidarity with the people there. And the point of it was to say that this may be two dozen people here, but they stand for many millions. And he did it with such tact and sensitivity and didn't make it thumpingly obvious and insult the audience's intelligence by pointing out something they already know."
Last Updated: 29 Sep 2008