I saw Drive for the first time last Christmas on the TV. Not expecting anything at all, I was blown away, though it was an experience I soon forgot. At the time, the sizzling synthesizer soundtrack, neon-lit Los Angeles and Noirish protagonist’s questionable ethical journey fired me up – it seductively woke me from my over-fed holiday stupor. At the time, I hadn’t realised why it had affected me so much…until I watched Radio One DJ Zane Lowe’s recent ‘Rescore’ of the film’s soundtrack.
Having seen the film just once before, I had no emotional attachment to the soundtrack – I had forgotten the comparison. The new score was initially apparent, slightly intrusive but not unpleasant (I had been primed by Lowe’s online introduction). I was aware of the artists – by adding voices – particularly British ones, the effect was slightly separating – somewhat distracting. However, the smooth flow of the title music began to underpin the overhead shots of the broad and blue sweeping highways. These moments were Bladerunnresque, seductive but predictable and what I was expecting Lowe to have done with the material.
But something strange began to happen; the music disappeared – For most of the film I forgot my ears. I wasn’t able to separate between the visual and the aural. The experience became a boundary blurring, multi-modal and ultimately synesthesial situation. The soundtrack was adding depth to everything I was seeing, the cinematic plane became thickened and texturised (it also helped that it was broadcast in HD). It felt like I could touch everything I was seeing – haptically engage with the space beyond the screen.
The music heightened my awareness of the materiality of the film. The garage felt now like an operating theatre, a place of clinical preparation. Normally dormant items became complicit in forcing home the harshness of metal weaponry used later in the narrative. Strip lights were sinuous and sword-like. Snap-On tools were shimmering shards of ice, promising razor-sharp incision. Cinematic matter became intensely connected to my own connective tissue. I became interstitially entwined in the chromium spectacle and curiously overwhelmed – this was a particularly prescient feeling in the number of violent scenes that the film contains.
I made vague connections with David Cronenberg’s car film, Crash. It’s aesthetic however had been repulsive, grey, washed out and almost alien; the film’s insular inhabitants were auto-hedonistic, auto-masochistic, selfish and self-serving singularities. For me, Drive’s visuality was at times, white hot and clinical; the electric effect was helped by largely being filmed at night – the contrast between the halogen clarity of car lights and the tyre shine darkness of LA’s back streets was palpably distinct. The video-game vacuity of the Driver’s expressionless face enabled me to project my own onto his; his calm, non-committed gaze, once again reminded me of the characters from Crash. His actions (driving a car) seemed to speak much louder than his (frustratingly few) words. I saw what he saw but I felt I could feel more than he could feel – I feel this was largely due to the new and miraculous arrangement of sound and vision
The music did eventually return. The de-railed Pawn Shop robbery sequence de-fibrillated my aural sense back into sharp focus. The strength and speed of the new score in this scene triggered a body-based frisson that nailed me to my seat. The cinematography at this point, particularly the rear-window framed vision of the pursuit car tail-whipping out of the chase, was a dynamic and almost hallucinatory hotspot that is still difficult remove from my memory.
The overall effect of the new score was mesmerising and at times peculiarly seamless. In my opinion, Lowe did an amazing job – one that compelled me to write something. He obviously knows and loves the film and of course, knows how to express himself (and the condition of others) through music. The alchemy here though, was to sensorially arrest (this particular viewer) with a flowing and inseparably immersive combination of appropriately selected sound and vision that was impossible to forget.
R1 Rescore Web-Site: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04p5k25