Nicolas Winding Refn films are a masterwork in the blend of cinema and music. From his frequent collaborations with Cliff Martinez to his deeper cuts with selections from Glass Candy and foreign karaoke numbers, Refn knows the importance of selecting the perfect track for each film and collaborating with some of the best composers in the business. In celebration of his latest film, The Neon Demon, we’ve highlighted key tracks from several of his films.
Bronson does a fantastic job of depicting the life of Charles Bronson/Michael Gordon Peterson, the most notorious prisoner in the UK. Its blend of humor and violence told from the horse’s mouth leads to a very entertaining and ultimately tragic story. The soundtrack is equally as exceptional, with tracks from Glass Candy and The Walker Brothers as well as several classical compositions. However The Pet Shop Boys’ track “It’s A Sin,” played during Charles Bronson’s most pathetic escape attempt takes the scene and plays it utterly straight with its comedy and tragedy. Watch the scene here.
Drive, Refn’s breakout mainstream hit, has several fantastic tracks on the soundtrack. From Kavinsky’s “Nightcall” to Desire’s “Under Your Spell” to “Bride of Deluxe” by Cliff Martinez, all the songs blend perfectly into depicting this crime thriller. The film and techno score convey the seedy underworld that Driver operates in with the bright neon pop of the streets at night. College’s track “A Real Hero” occurs twice in the film. The first part during a scene where Driver bonds with Irene and her kid as they drive across the L.A. River. The second is during the final scene in the film, where it resurfaces and brings an element of hope to the conclusion. Watch the first scene here.
Only God Forgives is predominantly a score driven film, with the soundtrack being composed of mainly Thai songs given the film is set in the darker aspects of the Bangkok underground crime scene. However the standout musical pieces come from Cliff Martinez’s nearly gothic techno score. The score elevates the tensions in the film to something more grandiose and helps convey the villain as a certified monster. The standout sequence in the film is the fight scene between Julian (Ryan Gosling) and Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm). The song, aptly titled “Wanna Fight”, makes what ultimately ends up a brutal beatdown into a battle of epic proportions. Watch the scene here.
And what of The Neon Demon? Well the soundtrack is phenomenal, blending perfectly the visual aesthetic and beauty of the dangerous world of L.A. modeling. Cliff Martinez’s score intermixes dreamy synths with a nice techno beat to give the movie a bit of a cooler edge than his previous collaborations with Refn. A key highlight from the soundtrack is the song “The Demon Dance” by Julian Winding. Highlighted in the trailers, its placement in the film, I shall keep vague. It is however an auditory delight and the use of it works amazingly in the film. The sequence itself blends perfectly with the song, which you can listen to here.