Pop Off: Music to movies, it could be great
Published: Monday, October 7, 2013
Updated: Monday, October 7, 2013 23:10
When one thinks of film adaptations, several sources of material come to mind: novel, biographies, plays and folklore. But another, seldom used form of art converted into movies is music. There have been plays based around operas, and “Fantasia” is in a way a visual adaptation of classical music. But screenplays written around modern music can be counted on one hand. There’s,“The Wall,” “Tommy” and the abysmal “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” and nothing else worth mentioning. With the rise in popularity of jukebox musicals and the eagerness of studios to incorporate popular music in their movies, such as having current hits play over trailers despite not being in the soundtrack, now seems like no better a time to bring classic songs and albums the silver screen. Here are several that would either make interesting fleshed out stories, or would translate well across mediums.
“The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” – David Bowie’s classic glam rock concept album creates the character (and for a while Bowie’s onstage persona) of Ziggy Stardust, an alien musician thriving on Earth in penultimate years before society’s collapse due to diminishing natural resources. Intended to be a portrait of the rock n roll musician as well as statement on their importance, “Ziggy Stardust” is a story that would make even more sense today than when it was first released in 1972.
“All Along the Watchtower” – Imagine a trailer beginning with two men crouching behind a stone wall with lights shining around them as a sly looking man turns to the other and says with grin, “There must be some kind of way out of here.” Wouldn’t that be awesome? “All Along the Watchtower” is one of Bob Dylan’s best, and it is one of the most thought-provoking songs ever written. It’s signature quality is how it manipulates time, starting at the end and working towards the beginning. Then there’s the metaphorical cloud that looms over it, and the hundreds who have attempted to analyze it down to the letter. In the hands of someone like Terrence Malick or Christopher Nolan, an adaptation would undoubtedly lead to an interesting result.
“Terrapin Station” – While it’s one of the lesser known songs by The Grateful Dead, it’s by far their most elaborate and complex. I’ve always believed Hunter’s poetry is too deep and invokes too many surreal images to be utilized only in music. The song, as difficult to construe as all of his work, not only illustrates a story (the classic Lady of Carlisle) but is a commentary on storytelling itself, with Terrapin Station being a mystical final destination. It invokes the idea of a multilayered epic: a fantastical adventure perhaps being told around a contemporary writer or musician.
“The Downward Spiral” – Many artists use music as a means of personal introspection and reflection. Few do this better than Trent Reznor, whose second studio album examines themes of religion, violence and existentialism as its protagonist descends into a state of self-destruction. While it is believed to be at least semi-autobiographical, the album can act as the perfect soundtrack to the portrait of a character whose mind and philosophy is corrupted by the surrounding world. It provides the opportunity for highly cynical and visceral filmmaking, out of which directors like Lars von Trier and Darren Aronofsky have made masterpieces.