Inception

Over the past week a section of the internet has blown up thanks to a YouTube clip (embedded below) that shows the relationship between some of Hans Zimmer‘s score for Inception and the Édith Piaf song “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien,” which was one of his inspirations and ended up used in the film, essentially becoming part of the score and helping shape it.

The relationship between the song and the score isn’t new or secret, as Zimmer mentioned it in interviews before the film’s release. But the clip does a great job of showing how Zimmer’s inspiration became part of the film, and now the composer is talking about how his manipulation of Piaf’s song came about, and what it means.

Édith Piaf’s “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien” was long intended to be part of the film, though Zimmer tells the LA Times it was almost cut when Marion Cotillard (who played Piaf in La Vie en Rose) was cast. But the song stayed, and a very small section of it was sampled and manipulated to create a very specific mood in the film, .

If you were to see this movie a second time, you realize the last note you hear in the movie is the first note in the movie. It’s a Möbius band. But the next thing you hear over the logos is actually telling a story. You realize that the elements that we’ve extracted from the Piaf song are the way you get from one dream level to the next. When the movie starts, some action has already happened.

And to the New York Times, Zimmer said of the YouTube comparison clip, “I’ve seen it. I was surprised how long it took them to figure it out.” He says the song was always meant as a specific part of the film’s architecture. “It was like a drawing of a huge finger saying, O.K., different time.”

Just for the game of it, all the music in the score is subdivisions and multiplications of the tempo of the Édith Piaf track. So I could slip into half-time; I could slip into a third of a time. Anything could go anywhere. At any moment I could drop into a different level of time.

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