The score of a film can be a game-changer–from driving the plot of the story to defining a character–and selecting the right composer can elevate a director’s work to the next level. Many movie themes have gone on to become cultural icons in their own right, from John Williams' legendary Jaws and Star Wars back in the seventies, to the blaring horns of Inception from Hans Zimmer.
Composer Ryuichi Sakamoto has joined forces with director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu for The Revenant, a visceral cinematic experience inspired by true events. The trailer gives us a glimpse at the power of the score, which soundtracks the story of Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his journey to seek revenge on his treacherous friends after being left for dead in the wilderness:
This will be the second project for talented pair after they first worked together on the excellent Babel, but before we dive into their work together let's take a look at some of Hollywood's legendary composer-director partnerships:
Hans Zimmer and Christopher Nolan
Hans Zimmer is a legend in his own right, but some of his best work has come alongside Christopher Nolan. The renowned composer, who shockingly boasts only two weeks of piano lessons as the sum of his formal musical education, labels himself and Nolan as a "band". He describes their scoring process as a "conversation", where the music comes alive as the movie itself is being written and filmed. Anyone who has ever heard the bombastic melodies of a Nolan/Zimmer film knows that the pair always rise to the occasion, creating breathtaking scores that reflect the ambitious reach of Nolan's movies.
Best Known Collaborations: The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception, Interstellar
John Williams and Steven Spielberg
Williams and Spielberg’s work together spans four decades and has produced legendary scores for the likes of Jurassic Park, E.T., and Jaws. In fact, last month’s Bridge of Spies marked only the second time in 30 years that Williams has not scored a Spielberg film. Unlike Zimmer, Williams is not defined by a certain sound, making him a "chameleon as a composer," as Spielberg himself put it.
Williams' incredible ability to adapt to any genre has earned him five Academy Awards, four Golden Globes, 49 Oscar nominations, and a plethora of other honors. These accolades make him one of the most celebrated artists of all time, and he is second only to the great Walt Disney in terms of nominations.
Best Known Collaborations: Jaws, E.T., Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List
Joe Hisaishi and Hayao Miyazaki
Gorgeous minimalism brings Japanese animation to life in the hands of composer Joe Hisaishi and director Hayao Miyazaki. Hisaishi's first musical endeavors carried a large influence from his love for electronic tunes, but he later expanded his horizons to full orchestral performances right before meeting director Hayao Miyazaki. Nevertheless, his electro-pop background has never ceased to inspire his musical endeavors.
It still starts the same way - with a piano. I use technology but don't rely upon it. I think it should be part of the process, not the entire process
While the composer's artistic relationship with Miyazaki might have ended after the director's retirement, Hisaishi's recent acceptance of a Lifetime Achievement award proves that his work with Miyazaki and other directors will have a lasting effect on animated cinema.
Best Known Collaborations: The Wind Rises, Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke
Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alejandro González Iñárritu
Iñárritu is fresh from winning an Oscar for the innovative Birdman, and the Mexican director is employing more radical filming techniques in The Revenant, controversially shooting the movie in chronological order and only by natural light.
The Oscar contender will have its soundtrack created by experimental composer Ryuichi Sakamoto. Despite recently recovering from throat cancer, the musician, political activist, pacifist and ecologist, best known for his work on Babel and Bertolucci's The Last Emperor, is determined to contribute his minimalist work to the wilderness-thriller. Alongside Sakamoto both Alva Noto and Bryce Dessner are making contributions to the score.
Best Known Collaborations: Babel, The Revenant