The Movie The Music

THE MOVIE, THE MUSIC | Drive

What are the best uses of music in cinema? How does a particular song help a scene or moment transcend itself? With this column ‘The Movie, The Music’, I’ll go into how a particular piece of music adds to what’s happening onscreen; how it elevates the tone, mood and emotion. I’ll be starting with Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive. *Spoilers follow*

The Movie: Drive by Nicolas Winding Refn

The Music: ‘A Real Hero’ by College

Drive was one of 2011’s critical babies. Acclaim from almost everywhere (except The Oscars) flooded in; Refn received his Best Director BAFTA, Gosling forged his status as an icon of left-field Hollywood, and everyone else got a corking new batch of first-class driving tunes. While many of Drive‘s key scenes involved a backing of dark, pulsing electronica – the opening car chase set to The Chromatics’ ‘Tick of the Clock’ the best example – to set the general icy cool of the piece, it was a ballad that helped unveil the eponymous protagonist’s core, and give him and Carey Mulligan’s Irene an intensely strong romantic bond.
Amid the film’s now famous ultra-violent scenes, the dialogue-free section where Gosling’s Driver takes Irene and her son for a sun-soaked drive through the waterways of Refn’s fairytale LA is like a hyphen between the bloodshed, and culminates in the two adults becoming closer than ever. This wordless scene is bolstered entirely by College’s heartfelt electronic laments – ‘And you have proved to be a real human being / And a real hero’. It sums up the mythos behind Gosling’s character; a nameless knight, standing in the doorway silhouetted by some holy light from behind, ready to throw you over his shoulder to rescue you from a burning building, or just to help you get your groceries back home when your car breaks down. It’s the theme for the entire movie, and it doesn’t quite hit until it makes its second appearance – in the precious few seconds before roll credits when the Driver, after sealing his loved one’s safety, disappears into the neon night in his cool-ass set of wheels. The lines in the middle of the road scroll into bottom frame, and a real hero has been born.

It’s this 80s-styled love song, replete with soothing female vocals and gorgeous synths, that evokes the mystery of the movie and underlines the surprising tenderness of Gosling’s oft-mute Hero. Driving tunes don’t often have the power to move you, but in the context of Drive, it makes complete sense.
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About GaryGreenScreen

Freelance film critic.

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Gary Green: Freelance film critic.

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