Friday, November 16, 2012

Book-To-Movie Soundtracks

This past weekend, I gave into the shameful spirits of procrastination and slothfulness. While my upcoming blog posts sat unwritten, I watched a movie. I blame Gillian and Ems. If they hadn't mentioned this particular movie and started reminiscing about key scenes, I would have had a productive weekend. Instead, I sat down and watched all FOUR HOURS of the BBC mini-series North and South.

Based off the Elizabeth Gaskell novel of the same title, North and South is a masterpiece. The plot is more character-driven than action-driven, but the characters themselves are a triumph. For me, North and South trumps even Pride & Prejudice for swoony period awesomeness.

One key component of the movie is the soundtrack. There are a few musical themes that cycle in the background, and they're all gorgeous. One in particular, entitled "I've Seen Hell (And It's White)", makes me want to die from happiness every time I hear it. The way the music swells with emotion, perfectly in synch with certain scenes, is indescribable.

Then I started thinking about other soundtracks. We talk so much about book-to-movie translations, but it's rare to talk solely about the music. But the more I started thinking, the more I realized that it was those book-to-movie translations that boasted some of the most moving cinematic soundtracks on my iPod.

Below are just a few of my favorites.

1. "I've Seen Hell (And It's White)" from North and South, based on North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell.  Starting slow and then building to a climax, "I've Seen Hell" adds an extra punch to some of the more emotional scenes in the mini-series, especially those darn cliffhangers.

2. "Come Away to the Water" from The Hunger Games, based on The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. There are so many good songs on THG soundtrack. Each fit the movie perfectly and exceeded my expectations (holla, "Kingdom Come!"), but Adam Levine's sinister and seductive "Come Away to the Water" is one of my favorites.

3. "Postcard for Henry Purcell" from Pride & Prejudice, based on Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Again, there's a plethora of amazing songs to choose from, but "Postcard" is one of my favorites. That may or may not have anything to do with the insane amount of romantic tension between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy in that scene.

4. "Dance 'Round the Memory Tree" from Prince Caspian, based on Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis. Another song that makes me want to dance, "Memory Tree" is slow, haunting, and perfect. "Lucy" and "The Call" from the same movie are also favorites.

5. "I Wanna Be Like You" from The Jungle Book, based on The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling. Most of the music on this list is more pathos-driven, but "Wanna Be" is amazingly fun. I dare you not to smile while listening.

6. "Houses of Healing" from The Return of the King, based on The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien. Yet again, there are so many fantastic songs in The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. So. Many. I'm partial to "Houses of Healing" for several reasons. It's gorgeous, for one. It also boasts vocals from Arwen (Liv Tyler). And it's startlingly unknown, as it comes from the ROTK Extended Edition soundtrack rather than the theatrical release. (For a more kid-friendly take on LOTR, try "My Baby Elf" from The Lord of the Bean.)

7. "Masquerade" from The Phantom of the Opera, based on The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston LeRoux. Everyone has their own favorite Phantom song. Some love the tender romance of "All I Ask of You;" others prefer the dark seduction of "Music of the Night;" while still others delight in the rockin' organ and electric guitar(!) in "The Phantom of the Opera." I prefer "Masquerade" best of all. The characters are ebullient, drunk on their supposed freedom from the Phantom. They celebrate, taunting him with their masks. It reaches a fever pitch around 3:12, and every time my stomach clenches. It's like watching the fall of Rome. They're mad with power, balancing on the edge of their doom, and it's all about to end with a violent crash.

8. "Cabin Fever" from Muppet Treasure Island, based on Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. You just can't beat a big, bald man in a Carmen Miranda outfit. (For a sci-fi, steampunk version of Treasure Island, try "I'm Still Here" from Treasure Planet.)

9. "The Plagues" from The Prince of Egypt, based on the story of Moses from Genesis in the Bible. Heehee. I was very careful not to specify novels, because I badly wanted to include this song. It's chest-poundingly powerful. Bonus for the Harry Potter geeks: the singing Pharaoh? That's Voldemort, folks. ("Deliver Us" and "When You Believe" are two other masterpieces from the same movie. Oh, who am I kidding. They're all awesome!)

10. "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" from Mary Poppins, based on Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers. Every kid knew how to say this word when I was growing up. Not everyone could spell, it though. Still, such a treat! (I also have learned to love the soft lullaby "Feed the Birds.")

There are hundreds of other songs I could have mentioned. I've excluded fairy tales and myths, for starters, as well as Winnie the Pooh, Tarzan, and tons of other wonderful book-to-movie translations. What songs would be on YOUR list, and what did you think of mine?