How to Tell a Story with Music: A Look At Wes Anderson’s Famous Scores

Wes Anderson is a divisive director. Some moviegoers resonate with his idiosyncratic type, whereas others detest it. However wherever you land on the spectrum, you possibly can’t deny how masterfully he makes use of music. We take a deep dive into his uncanny capability for locating simply the best track for simply the best second, whether or not that’s how he distinguishes between songs and scores or how he makes use of music as a manner to interpret the tales he tells.

When to Use a Rating Versus a Track

From his first characteristic movie Bottle Rocket to his newest achievement Isle of Canines, Anderson makes use of a mixture of a rating and a soundtrack in each work. Regardless of the undertaking, the director has a meticulous plan for the way he’ll use the 2 collectively–and it all the time relies on the second.

When it comes to scores, Anderson works primarily with Devo frontman Mark Mothersbaugh and French composer Mark Alexandre Desplat, who additionally composed The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and The Form of Water. Anderson solely deviated from these two composers on one movie, The Darjeeling Restricted, for which he used the scores of well-known Indian director and composer Satyajit Ray to honor the tradition during which the film is about.

Anderson and his music supervisor, Randall Poster, collaborate with Mothersbaugh, Desplat and others to make unique music that compliments and dietary supplements the story–normally the tone or the setting–whereas utilizing present music to overtake the story.

Anderson makes use of scores within the background, cautious not to steal consideration away from the second or scene, whereas he makes use of soundtracks within the foreground, to purposefully overtake the second or scene. The latter permits for the track to turn into a character in and of itself, with a life and story of its personal. Although Anderson doesn’t set up a arduous and quick rule, it’s one thing for filmmakers to observe as a potential manner of deciding when to use a rating or soundtrack in your movie: scores for background and soundtracks for foreground.

In case you are in search of a nice rating in your undertaking, try our Cinematic Playlist.

Making Your Movie Really feel Timeless 

It’s arduous to consider one other director who makes use of oldies as continuously and successfully as Anderson. He’ll use every little thing from radio hits to deep cuts and hidden gems from the likes of The Kinks, Cat Stevens, The Zombies and The Seaside Boys.

Anderson creates nostalgia, not essentially to take viewers again to a sure time or place however to set up a universality and timelessness, getting his movies out of the right here and now. In the event you didn’t know the discharge date, for instance, you might need hassle relationship his motion pictures–and that’s a good factor.

The way in which Anderson makes use of timeless music ought to urge filmmakers to think about the constraints that may exist when solely utilizing fashionable music and the way that fixes their work in a particular context and generally even places a ceiling on their work. As his filmography pays testomony, Anderson helps us see the ability of nostalgia.

In case you are in search of music that sounds previous and timeless, try our Soul Playlist.

The Timing of Anderson’s Music

Anderson’s strategy to music finally hinges on timing. If the sound just isn’t working exactly collectively with the picture, nothing else issues. He accomplishes his seamless timing in three distinct methods: in the usage of montage, sluggish movement and by all the time connecting a theme in his story straight to a track.

Music and Montage

First, let’s discuss montage. Anderson makes use of it in each certainly one of his motion pictures, and it’s one of many major locations the place we see his musical alternatives come to life. A few of the most pertinent and poignant musical moments emerge when the dialogue fades, and Anderson brings collectively a momentous track with a sequence of cuts.

The Royal Tenenbaums

“Judy is a Punk” by The Ramones paired with Margot Tenenbaums background story is a montage that tells the background story of Margot being a smoker, displaying how wild and “punk rock” of a life she’s lead, all the time working by the beat of her personal drum. This much less well-liked track by The Ramones not solely provides the scene an power and humor, but it surely tells us a lot in regards to the character of Margot.

The Darjeeling Limited

“Play with Fireplace” by The Rolling Stones paired with The Brothers’ Reunion With Their Mom in India is a montage that begins by panning to every member of the household, as they work out their variations via a silent ritual, however then provides us an replace on different characters within the narrative. The track by the Stones couldn’t be extra becoming for the montage. There’s attract and thriller to it that feels ominous, and the lyrics level to the truth that the brothers, and each different character, has opened the lid to choices and conditions that can change their lives perpetually.

Taking a lesson from Anderson, filmmakers ought to think about how they’re connecting montage and music. This is a chance to make a specific track stand out; it’s in all probability one of the best spot to place your strongest observe. 

Music and Gradual-Movement

Second, let’s discuss slow-motion. There in all probability isn’t a director working immediately who has achieved as many cathartic, poignant slow-mo moments as Anderson, moments that might by no means be achieved with out the best music. This music is available in on the good second and guides the regular motion of the characters, whereas subtly spelling out how we’d see and interpret the second.


“Ooh La La” by Faces is the Remaining Dance with fundamental characters, Max and Rosemary, in Anderson’s second characteristic. The movie ends with a heartwarming dance scene, the place the protagonist has a significant dance with the older college trainer who broke his coronary heart. Utilizing sluggish movement to focus the shot on the interactions of the characters and to create a pause within the movie, Anderson brings the second collectively with this iconic track about rising up. It not solely communicates the epiphany that Max has skilled, in his coming of age story, however a number of of the opposite characters, as properly.

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

“Queen Bitch” by David Bowie in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou tells the story of Steve strolling out of the theatre. This conclusion to the film options Invoice Murray’s character, Steve Zissou, strolling down a highway. It’s a paradoxical second, given the combination of music and visuals. The sluggish mo and the power of Bowie’s hit make Zissou appear triumphant. But, his character arch and the lyrics concentrate on loss and disappointment. This juxtaposition mutes out the noise, actually and figuratively, and helps us truly make sense of the film.

As Anderson proves, slow-motion moments are vital for drawing out a specific theme. In addition they current the proper time to spotlight a particular lyric or line from a track that you really want the viewers to hear, course of and join to the main focus of the shot.

Music and Theme

Anderson all the time connects the lyrics or the concepts behind a track to the center of his film or a specific second. This permits the track to perform as a set of lenses that assist us view or interpret his film.

Filmmakers, specifically, ought to think about Anderon’s strategy, particularly how songs can function greater than a technical gadget to transfer alongside the tempo of a movie or to make a specific scene extra entertaining or emotionally compelling. Songs, particularly when utilized in conjunction with distinct digicam and enhancing strategies like sluggish movement and montage, turn into commentary for the way you need viewers to see and take into consideration your work. On this sense, they act as a central a part of the narrative, turning into as large and important because the characters themselves.

Studying From the Greatest

Anderson and his movies exhibit the never-ending prospects of how a rating and a soundtrack cannot solely complement however carry ahead a scene, story or character. So, whether or not you’re working in promoting, making narrative movies or taking pictures weddings, filmmakers ought to pay shut consideration to the music of Wes Anderson. The director serves as a nice mannequin for creating a stunning, cathartic collision of sight and sound inside filmmaking; there’s a lot that we are able to glean from his approach. 

For extra on the work of director Wes Anderson, check out our interview with his go-to Art Director, Carl Sprague.