The myth of music being ‘in front of/above’ the film

I have heard it so many times in my life, I just can not stay quiet anymore. First I’ve heard it from mediocre directors: ‘the music was far too important than the film’, or ‘the music took over the film’. It is a nice way to say that the film was bad – no?

Now, I hear it even by famous composers: ‘I try to be part of the film and not ‘above’ it, not get in the way…’

Am I the only one who believes this is a total crap?

Would you say something like this for the leading actor? Would you say, ‘sorry, Robert, but you need to take it a notch down because you are overshadowing Marty’s work?’
Or would you ask Storaro to lower his level of quality of overwhelming photography in Sheltering Sky so that Bertolucci would have more space? Or did Sakamoto with his extraordinary music destroyed the same film?

Isn’t it obvious that such a collaborative art-form like cinema would want the best of all in it? Why would one think that cinema is too narrow to fit the magnitude of everyone’s talent? Why would you want the composer to be ‘discrete’ to allow space for others? Why don’t the others take their own space?

I am so fed up by all this stupidity that has turned film scoring to an art of creating soundscapes – atmospheric sequences without any meaning, with no real, clear statement what so ever.

The reality is that it takes a great editor and a great director (editor more in Hollywood since he does all the major work in the post production – director more in Europe since he is the one who makes important decisions) to work with a great score and a great composer.

Do you think Steven Spielberg has ever asked John Williams to step back a little? Are we serious?

We need to understand, that no matter how ‘smart’ we try to be, the art of cinema is created by artists and not ‘smart-guys’. Being smart, making excuses for your lack of creating important statements of emotional and mental validity doesn’t create a great score nor help a film. The truth is that many times a great score has elevated a mediocre film. It can not turn it into a great film though. But a mediocre score, hidden behind dialogue and effects will never help a film, no matter how great this is.

Let’s not be afraid of each other’s creativity – we are all in the same boat!

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