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Film

The iconic American director who inspired Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen has always been transparent about the ways in which cinema has influenced his music. He has not only written songs for films but many of his songs are also influenced by the masterpieces of pioneers who changed the course of cinema forever through their impactful and unique artistic visions.

Drawing inspiration from a wide variety of genres including film noir, B-movies and others, Springsteen’s music has an inherent cinematic quality about it. In fact, the legendary musician chooses to view his songs as “little short films” because his artistic objective is to have a body of work that feels like an auteur’s filmography.

Although Springsteen has been influenced by many cinematic masters, there is one particular period in his life where he saw infinite parallels between films and his songs. That period was the vastly influential New Hollywood movement in America, led by pioneers like Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese among others.

Reflecting on that period and the films that contributed to his own vision, Springsteen named some of the masterpieces that remained embedded in his mind: “A lot of my writing is deeply influenced from the movies. Initially, I think were films from the New Hollywood in the early ’70s. Godfather, Taxi Driver, Mean Streets.”

“Those were just pictures that came right at a certain moment when I was creating my own work,” he added while talking about the era. “So there was something, the existential nature of a lot of them just rang true for me and it was something that I tried to make a part of my own musical persona and what I was creating.”

There is one particular ’70s film by an American visionary that had a huge impact on Springsteen’s work on albums such as Darkness on the Edge of Town and Nebraska among others. That film was the endlessly influential directorial debut of Terrence Malick which paved the way for many subsequent New Hollywood investigations.

Titled Badlands, the film is an unforgettable American odyssey filled with violence and existential ruminations. Springsteen’s Nebraska has a lot in common with Badlands, not just the fact that the title song is based on the Charles Starkweather murder spree like Malick’s debut but many of the other entries also deal with existentialism and crime.

These similarities have been noted by many, including Bono who mentioned the parallels while inducting Springsteen into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999. During his speech, Bono pointed out the beauty of Springsteen’s vision by saying: “It’s like, in Badlands, [Springsteen] is Martin Sheen and Terrence Malick.”

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