Exploring Soundtracks: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

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We’re back with another movie soundtrack to dive into. For the past several weeks, we’ve been going through David Fincher’s filmography.

We’ve seen how he worked with Howard Shore to craft the psychological thrill rides in “Seven”, “The Game”, and “Panic Room”. We also saw Fincher branching out by hiring the Dust Brothers to score the soundtrack for “Fight Club”. Last week, we looked at “Zodiac”, which featured a collection of songs by various artists from the ’60s and ’70s to capture the mood of the era.

Now we’re moving on to “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, which was released in 2008. The film received 13 Academy Award nominations, winning the awards for Best Art Direction, Best Makeup, and Best Visual Effects.

For the soundtrack, David Fincher brought on Alexandre Desplat, who as we’ve seen, was a frequent collaborator with Wes Anderson. Desplat’s score was also nominated for Best Score.

Synopsis

“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” follows the story of (you guessed it) Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt), born under unusual circumstances as an elderly man who ages in reverse. Twelve years after his birth, he meets a child named Daisy (Cate Blanchett), who flits in and out of his life at different times. While his life is filled with different adventures, Benjamin Button is continually driven by his relationship with Daisy, and the hope that they will meet at the right time.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Many of Alexandre Desplat’s compositions in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” are musical palindromes, in that the themes play the same way in reverse as they do forward. This is an example of a composer taking direct inspiration from the themes of a film, and incorporating them into the very fabric of the final product. You may not realize it while watching the film, but its very presence seeps into the subconscious. It works as a glue that holds the film together, but sits in the background, never distracting the audience from the film’s movement or emotion.

In an interview, Alexandre Desplat says he wrote the music with subtlety in mind, preferring it to take a backseat to the story itself. “If I were to show off too much about my reverse thing,” Desplat says, “it would be disconnected from the picture and the story, and we have to be really, completely overwhelmed by the story before everything”.

The score Desplat created drew on the New Orleans sounds of the ’30s and ’40s, which serves as the setting for the film. Similarities between the sweeping piano, string, and horn arrangements in the film and Duke Ellington’s work. The sounds of jazz certainly find their way into the score. Much like “Zodiac”, these sounds are used to ground the film more firmly in the era.

Desplat’s music provides a wide and diverse range of emotions for the nearly three hours of screen time, as it should. When a story takes on the entire lifespan of its characters, it needs to encapsulate all of the emotions a full life provides. From fast-paced, action-filled tracks like “Submarine Attack”, to the more contemplative, piano and strings of “Dying Away”, Desplat displays his skill at delivering the right tone to fit any scene.

Final Thoughts

Due to the blend of fantasy and drama in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, Alexandre Desplat was a perfect fit to compose the score. Desplat’s compositions have a way of capturing all of the magic and mystery of life. His level of attention, care, and restraint serve the story over anything else, always remaining subtle, and always supporting the scene.

In the released, two-disc soundtrack, the first disc contains Alexandre Desplat’s score. The second disc, on the other hand, is full of dialogue excerpts, mostly of Benjamin Button narrating different sections. While they could be enjoyable to some die-hard film buffs, there’s little they offer in terms of casual listening. But, to each their own.

That about wraps up our look into the soundtrack for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”. Next time, we’ll discuss David Fincher’s next movie, “The Social Network”.

Track List

  1. Postcards (02:48)
  2. Mr. Gateau (03:00)
  3. Meeting Daisy (01:20)
  4. A New Life (03:37)
  5. Love in Murmansk (03:50)
  6. Meeting Again (02:39)
  7. Mr. Button (02:04)
  8. Little Man Oti (02:02)
  9. Alone at Night (02:32)
  10. It Was Nice to Have Met You (01:42)
  11. Children’s Games (04:38)
  12. Submarine Attack (02:38)
  13. The Hummingbird (02:33)
  14. Sunrise on Lake Pontchartrain (01:42)
  15. Daisy’s Ballet Career (03:33)
  16. The Accident (02:02)
  17. Stay Out of My Life (02:37)
  18. Nothing Lasts (01:43)
  19. Some Things You Never Forget (02:53)
  20. Growing Younger (01:34)
  21. Dying Away (02:13)
  22. Love Returns (02:59)
  23. Benjamin and Daisy (02:26)

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