The perpetual question I ask myself while walking down the street blasting the Midnight in Paris soundtrack is, why doesn’t my life feel like a movie? No matter how many vibey playlists I listen to while strutting to class or sitting in a coffee shop, my life never seems to have that certain cinematic quality. I’m not sure how common an aspiration it is to have your life feel like a movie, but for me, it’s a motivating factor in most things I do. I have narrowed the ways to accomplish this goal down to a single feasible aspect, music.
In all my favourite movies, it’s the score and soundtrack that determines the mood of the film for me. To clarify, the score of a film is the instrumental music written to accompany the film, while the soundtrack is the selection of songs that have not been recorded specifically for the film but in my opinion are what gives movies their personality. Soundtrack is an aspect of film that is easily replicable in real life, unlike wardrobes or locations. Listening to music associated with certain films transports you to the mindset of that world, and almost makes you feel like you’re there. But, as per my dilemma, it often falls short of truly emulating that same feeling as the film exudes.
In my quest to feel like I’m in a movie through my exploration of movie soundtracks, I have developed an acute appreciation for the nuances of sound in film. Soundtracks can be sensationalised, however, I think we take for granted how much they add to the overall ambiance of films. It brings in specific tones that music supervisors want to overlay in the film that acting and visuals alone cannot bring. Tones that evoke nostalgia, melancholy, levity, and culture.
For example, as I previously mentioned, Midnight in Paris, a film that is supposed to evoke 20th Century French culture, has a lighthearted Parisian themed soundtrack and score with songs that allow you to be transported to France in the 1920’s.
The fan favourite Guardians of the Galaxy has a critically acclaimed soundtrack filled with 60’s and 70’s hits that translate the fun and carefree nature of the film while also sprinkling in some nostalgic culture to draw people in.
Another great example of the use of the soundtrack in Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse, but this soundtrack is unique in the fact that it was curated and recorded specifically for this film. It’s collection of rap and hip-hop tunes make the film feel extremely relevant to contemporary culture and put the viewer in the shoes of a young protagonist in New York by showing us what he would be listening to. Not only are these soundtracks some of my favourites, but they’re also great examples of the way music adds another layer to film as a storytelling device.
However, it wasn’t until I watched Mid 90’s, a skater movie set in (you guessed it) the mid 90’s, that I had an epiphany that may seem obvious to most, but I found to be a ground-breaking discovery. Mid 90’s utilizes a collection of 90’s classics like Nirvana, GZA, Wu- Tang and Cypress Hill to encapsulate 90’s skater culture. While this soundtrack is great and makes you feel like a skater, its use of sound in the movie also made me finally realize why my life will never feel like a movie. In the film the soundtrack is not overlayed over the scenes, it does not play over the movie at the same volume, and thus does not create that crispy clean lens over the film.
Rather, the music moves with the movie. For example, when the characters enter and exit a car, the volume of the music changes, conveying that the music is actually coming from the car and isn’t just an ominous song that no one can hear but the audience. This theme continues throughout the film, giving the music a source and makes it seem like it is happening in the story not just to add tones for the audience. Compared to most movies, like the examples I mentioned above, soundtracks feel like they add a rose-coloured lens to the film, making it an other worldly experience where music seems to play as if from nowhere, maintaining a crisp sound and consistent volume.
This is the issue with trying to recreate movie soundtracks in real life. There is no scenario where an unseen force starts playing songs at certain points in your life with seemingly no source. This is what gives Mid 90’s its gritty and realistic feel, what makes it feel like real life. Reality does not include a montage scene overlaid with an 80’s power ballad, nor does it have a moody indie song playing after you break up with your boyfriend.
Therefore, when I try to emulate the feeling of soundtracks it falls flat, it does not feel like a shiny layer of plastic has been placed over my life. When I really break down my need to feel like I live in a movie, I realize that for me and everyone else, it’s a form of escapism. To imagine the universe carefully curating a playlist for your life it seems like a dream, but this is not what reality is.
So when I ask myself the question, why doesn’t my life feel like a movie? The answer is, because it’s not a movie.
Life does not have a script, a location scout or a costume designer, so why would it have a music supervisor? Even more, why should it have to? Life is not perfect, nor is it a two hour story with a tidy ending. My advice to myself and everyone with cinematic life aspirators is to, sadly, accept the truth that life will never be like a movie and you shouldn’t want it to be. That’s what makes movies so fun to watch, the fact they are nothing like reality, and allow you to take a break from it.
HEADER IMAGE SOURCE: REILLY KENNEDY