Every now and then a book comes along that changes everything for you. Even more often, a film is made of that book that while good, doesn’t really knock it out of the park in the way it should. That’s where “The Virgin Suicides” comes in. The film, while able to capture the spirit and essence of the brilliant Jeffrey Eugenides novel, falls short in a few ways. The score of the film, though, is an area where French musicians Air and filmmaker Sofia Coppola are able to note the gravitas and knock the idea of marrying music and imagery out of the park in a wonderful, yet tragic way. While I’ve read the book more than ten times, the film score also stands as my favorite score or soundtrack of all time. Today we add another great album to the “Albums Of My Life” series, with Air’s spacey and passionate score to “The Virgin Suicides.”
It’s rare that a score truly hits on narrative points discussed in the inspired work, yet even from early on, the lyrics do exactly that, albeit in a loosely narrative way. One of the best things about the novel is how quickly you’re dropped into a world you perfectly understand. Young people are curious people,and that curiosity plays roles in nearly everything in their lives. The score opens up with the jazz, horn infused gentle rumblings of “Playground Love,” If you’ve ever seen the film, or read the book, I can’t imagine you saying this soundtrack doesn’t fit perfectly in the world in which five boys end up falling for the tragic yet wondrous Lisbon sisters. So much detail is known about these girls, but somehow the lovelorn boys miss the true essence of them, and in the end, it’s much too late. They were doomed, and as it is said in both the novel and film, the boys will forever be trying to save them.
By track three, “Bathroom Girl,” the feeling of the time is prevalent, and the hazy quality of the film starts to show itself in audio form. One of the best things about the film is it’s ability to drift among the vibes of the world through snapshots of past and future experiences, but also makes you long for simpler times. You want for the summer where you’re so obsessed with the new girl that you throw yourself off of a roof while pining for her love, only to realize the girl who loved you may have in fact thrown herself onto a steel fence, exiting herself from Earth in a pivotal early scene.
That girl, Cecilia Lisbon, the youngest, most carefree of the bunch, starts the onslaught her sisters later finish in dramatic fashion, under the guise of wanderlust. II mention this because the fifth number of the score,”Dark Messages,” ties in thematically to the inner workings of how not only these five souls, but also their parents must have felt doing the time that changed everything. The track is ominous, and appropriately so, because the next song, “The Word ‘Hurricane” winds and bashes and causes destruction. The word Hurricane, as it’s used in a book, is used brilliantly in a couple of obvious but also very subtle ways.
The most prominent person in the film who isn’t a Lisbon daughter is Trip Fontaine, and by this time in the book, he’s fallen head over heels for Lux Lisbon, who is easily the most free and unhinged of the girls. But as you can imagine, it doesn’t end well. Back to the usage of hurricane in symbolic terms. and how it’s used to move the story along. Luz and Trip meet in the gym during a science video on hurricane’s, but what Trip doesn’t know, and very well may not understand for decades to come, is that while he was watching a video about hurricanes, he was meeting his own force of nature, in the form of the reckless Lisbon, the one and only Lux. The song plays well to this narrative element, and before we know it, the chaos has moved into an upbeat and dark passage titled “Dirty Trip.” It’s full of 70’s themed instrumentation, like something from a nightmare whose conclusion is uncertain. Finally though, we get to a little bit of softer feelings, as given to us in the musical theme to the whole score, “Highschool Lover.” Melodically it’s the same tone and instrumentation as the opening track “Playground Love,” but it’s more poignant, more open, and more importantly, it signals a turn of mood in the film that can’t be undone.
The songs on the second half of the score, while sometimes moving in a slower pace, are able to be more enlightening and engrossing, most of all in the way it plays to what’s happening in the film. Things go worse and worse for this family, and I like to think this score is the useless struggle of the five boys trying to save this woman, while also not understanding that they have no desire to be saved.
The twelfth song though, “Dead Bodies,” is an unusually upbeat song, and you can sense the dread coming from the speakers. Drums are flailing while bodies drop from existence, and still, you feel the times coursing through the music. This track not only symbolizes the death of the Lisbons as a whole, but it’s framed the death of innocence as well, as seen through the wanting eyes of five boys who wanted nothing more at the time than to save what was unsaveable. These girls, Cecilia, Lux, Bonnie, Mary, and Therese, were all flickering brief entities in the universe, and they knew it.They just neglected to inform anyone else of their status.
The last song brilliantly lays out the events of the book, and transports us one last time to this world where little is understood about the main characters, but you don’t need to, because it speaks to parts of us all. Some of the last words on the score, which will be presented at the end of this piece, explain to us the feelings of the situation after the fact, and the music compliments it in a perfect, but overwhelmingly sad reminder of life, and how it can be misunderstood, pushed aside, and forgotten.
"Everyone dated the demise of our neighborhood from the suicides of the Lisbon girls. People saw their clairvoyance in the wiped-out elms and harsh sunlight. Some thought the torture tearing the Lisbon girls pointed to a simple refusal to accept the world as it was handed down to them: So full of flaws. But the only thing we are certain of after all these years is the insufficiency of explanation.".
“From five they had become four, and they were all living in the dead, becoming shadows.”
Landon Murray is a music connooisseur who craves sounds of all shapes and textures. He's seen over 2000 bands and looks forward to welcoming you into his world of sound,
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