Exploring the soundtrack of Christopher Nolan’s ‘Tenet’
As the world beholds the reopening of cinemas, and Christopher Nolan’s latest cinematic endeavour with it, it is quite unusual to see the director without both composer, Hans Zimmer and cinematographer Wally Phister.
Both mainstays since his break into the industry limelight with 2005’s Batman Begins, Christopher Nolan and Hans Zimmer have particularly become synonymous with each other; both creatives elevating each other’s work. But with Zimmer busy on Denis Villeneuve’s Dune, and Wally Phister parting ways with the director following The Dark Knight Rises, Tenet sees the director with a new totally pair of behind-the-camera talent.
Phister was replaced by Hoyte van Hoytema for 2014’s Interstellar, but it’s Zimmer who’s the real omission for Tenet, being replaced by Swedish composerLudwig Göransson.
Whilst watching the film you’d be forgiven for not realising the change. Both Zimmer and Göransson’s work can be characterised by a very rustic, tactile sound that accelerates their films forward with industrial-like power. The same can be said for Göransson’s previous composition for The Mandalorian, propelling the narrative into a mythical stratosphere, giving it a sense of mystery and exploration that the series took for granted.
Listening to the track ‘FREEPORT’ in the newly released soundtrack from Nolan’s latest film, certainly harks back to this same mystery that The Mandolorian exudes, though here it’s considerably more intense. For all the film’s downfalls, it is the soundtrack’s steady acceleration and consistent momentum that keeps the film exciting, stimulating and afloat. The track ‘747’ hits you like a caffeine rush, demanding your attention and panic no matter what is happening on screen.
But quite like the film itself, there is more going on here. Göransson’s score jerks and shifts like a contorting performer, from dreamlike rapture to intense ecstasy. It begins to flicker and distort, glitching out, much like the reality of the world of Tenet itself.
Just like the dodgy inversion technology, the score feels unstable and powerful, but as if it has the potential to collapse at any moment. Look no further than the track ‘RETRIEVING THE CASE’, set amidst the films most impressive action sequence. Atmospheric mechanical chimes make way for electrical sparks mimicking bangs of mental serotonin, building to a crescendo of industrial techno.
Göransson’s score is the driving force behind Tenet, establishing and maintaining a central premise that is often lost throughout the film itself. It feels unfinished, imperfect, almost unnatural, just like the technology of Tenet, a weapon in its infancy, requiring rudimentary plastic face masks to survive its existence.
Strangely enough, the score works better to underline the central theme of the film than the complete film itself. Göransson’s score is a sensory experience that places you within the central mystery, rattles you in intensity, and then chucks you out the other side – “Don’t try to understand it, feel it”.
Listen to the soundtrack in its entirety right here: