The Power in a Soundtrack - Sofia Coppola and Brian Reitzell
Written by Tessa Lillis
Few female directors in Hollywood today have been given the opportunity to make their mark; to call attention to the true talent that can be found in a female perspective. There are so few, in fact, that when I googled ‘best female directors’ there were many articles that named fifteen or so ranging from Kathryn Bigelow to Greta Gerwig, whereas when I googled ‘best male directors’ there wasn’t a single article that specifically named a few individuals (there are simply too many to reduce to such a list). There was one director in particular that popped up in every female-directed list, and for good reason: Sofia Coppola.
Not only do I absolutely love Sofia Coppola’s directing style and her uniquely feminine point of view, but I also believe that she has mastered the art of the soundtrack in a way that few directors have, regardless of their sex. Coppola and her frequent collaborator, Brian Reitzell, have made the soundtrack, along with the protagonist and setting, another character in her films. How fantastic and brilliant is that! Personally, I find this to be especially true in Marie Antoinette and The Bling Ring, where the soundtracks personally curated by Coppola and Reitzell completely transport you to the film’s world.
Marie Antoinette - 80s New Wave and Post-Punk
Okay, to start this off, THIS IS ONE OF MY FAVOURITE SOUNDTRACKS OF ALL TIME. I listen to it constantly, and I would admit that before I watched this film I didn’t really know any new wave music. Who would have imagined that this 18th century story would have introduced me to The Cure?
Nearly everyone knows the tragic story of Marie Antoinette. A young woman, thrown into a foreign world for the sake of a royal alliance is driven towards opulence and, eventually, her untimely death. Coppola’s interpretation of 18th century Versailles, the visually striking images filled with pastel pinks and mints, just somehow works so well with the 80s-inspired music. One would expect such a film to be accompanied by a baroque or classical style, which Coppola still integrates occasionally, but this film is about a teenager who simply is not sure what to do with herself. A coming of age story of sorts, Marie’s lavish parties and extravagant dresses still leave her feeling how we have all felt in our youth: unfulfilled. She is a teenager who happens to be marrying royalty in Versailles, yes, but a girl displaced from home nonetheless. What better-fitting music than that of youth-driven 80s groups such as Siouxsie and the Banshees, New Order and Adam and the Ants?
When Marie first arrives in Versailles and I hear The Radio Dept.’s ‘I Don’t Like It Like This’, I am reminded of the soundtrack’s genius. ‘Why are you asking me this? / Can’t you see I’m trying? / I don’t like it like this / No I think I’m dying’. Coppola and Reitzell have made this historical figure completely attainable to the audience through just a few songs (and the converse Coppola chose to throw into the film are a fun touch, too).
The Bling Ring - L.A. Hip Hop and Rap
Unlike the music of Marie Antoinette, which juxtaposes to the historical setting, Coppola’s sixth feature film instead puts us directly in the world of the characters. As the five teenagers go on both crime and spending sprees throughout L.A., breaking into celebrities’ houses to flaunt or sell articles of clothing, we hear hip hop blasting from their cars. They are living the fast life of L.A. stealing from celebrities, listening to celebrities (like Kanye and 2 Chainz) and ultimately imitating celebrities.
These teenagers crave the life of the rich and famous, which has been clearly glorified and glamorised through the media. Sofia Coppola is offering a direct commentary on society’s worshipping of money and fame in the meticulous composition of the soundtrack, demonstrating what it is truly like as a teenager who is over-saturated with these messages. As a young adult living in L.A. and listening to songs such as Reema Major’s ‘Gucci Bag’, M.I.A.’s ‘Bad Girls’, and 2 Chainz’ ‘Money Machine’, how could you not crave such a life?
But Coppola yet again emphasises that, even though you may attain such extreme wealth, you will still be left unfulfilled, and she does this all through the soundtrack! Frank Ocean’s Super Rich Kids is the perfect finisher for the soundtrack, as he sings about ‘Super rich kids with nothing but loose ends / Super rich kids with nothing but fake friends’. The music has led us to fully understand the young criminals, their intentions, and the consequences of such an appetite.
All gifs and pictures are credited to Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette (2006), Columbia Pictures and The Bling Ring (2013), A24