A few years ago, while listening to The Dark Knight soundtrack, I discovered an unfamiliar composition deeply in tune with the film’s questions, and yet quite unlike the majority of the film’s other cues. Through a layering of strings, beginnings and ends became indistinguishable from one another, emphasizing process over a knowable finality. Returning to the film, I found the composition near the end, buried in the mix building tension and filling space between the lines. This often happens to quieter composers when pitted against dialog and environmental noise, but Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard are usually driving forces for a film’s sound and their presence is well known.
The majority of The Dark Knight’s score is featured prominently throughout the film exhibiting a complex evolution from the themes composed for Batman Begins. There is more experimentation necessitated by the introduction of Joker and a furthered bombastic quality drawn from Zimmer’s work over the last number of years, but it is all well attached to the scenes being supported and is consistently utilized as an anchor for them to flow.
In contrast, Watch the World Burn (as it is titled on the album) seems to speak to another, ever more complicated world than the one supported. It introduces something new near the end and is kept somewhat hidden (also done with Batman Begins, where the main theme was not introduced until the film was almost over) allowing the scene between these three characters to speak to a third act and world as yet unknown. The music is hypnotically trancelike and may speak to the chants Zimmer has spoken of composing for the final film. It has a certain epic quality to it beyond the other music and may be a promise for the future structure. But, what does that really tell us about the experience of listening?
Watch the World Burn is not something that simply reminds one of a scene. It has a strong identity independent of its cinematic attachment carrying an emotional complexity beyond what is often expected from Hollywood summer blockbusters. Maybe its distance has a point and is a promise of what’s to come. Maybe it’s the case of a dramatic piece of music slightly buried by necessity. Or, maybe when I first heard the film I was so captivated by the scene that the score disappeared into the many pieces putting it together; waiting for discovery at a later time and place.
Listen to isolated track here:
Watch film context here:
Garrett D. Tiedemann 11/28/11
For more on soundtracks:
Scores That Scare: The 8 Most Frightening Movie Soundtracks