Unless the movie is a musical, the score is usually an accessory — something that helps set the mood or convey the emotion in a scene. For instance, there’s John Williams’s music in that iconic scene in E.T. when Elliott rides with the extra-terrestrial to the forest on his bike to escape government scientists. I still gape and sigh with wonderment when the bike flies into the sky and across the face of the big moon as the music reaches a crescendo.
And, again citing John Williams, whose heart wouldn’t pound every time the music — a simple alternating two-note melody that is suspenseful as it is primal — played when that man-eating shark in Jaws approached its prey?
Then, there is Ennio Morricone. Before I saw The Untouchables, I hadn’t even heard of him. But the gangster movie’s score captivated me so that I never forgot his name after that. Later, I would see Cinema Paradiso and The Legend of 1900, both of which wouldn’t have probably captured the era and culture so beautifully were it not for Morricone’s dreamy music.
Apart from John Williams and Ennio Morricone, no musical score had been memorable enough to remember — until recently when I saw Hanna (2011) and was totally blown away by the soundtrack which, I would learn later, was written by The Chemical Brothers.
Then along came Imaginaerum and I swear I will never thumb my nose at metal rock ever again.
Imaginaerum is a fantasy film about Thomas Whitman, a once-famous musician, suffering from dementia who collapses and goes into a coma. Estranged from his daughter, Gem, for decades, the daughter signs a “do not resuscitate” order. As Thomas hovers between life and death, he enters a dream world where, as a 10-year-old boy, he relives the defining moments of his life.
The story is simple enough. We’ve heard it too many times before how, in one’s final moments, one’s life blitzes through the mind as a flashback on hyper-fast forward mode. And that’s all that Imaginaerum is about. Half of the magic is how the story was told. The visuals left me wide-eyed and enthralled. The other half of the magic is the music that played endlessly as the story progressed. I was so enraptured and I felt like I was floating.
Imaginaerum is the album of a Finnish band called Nightwish. As with Morricone when I first saw The Untouchables, I had never heard of Nightwish until I saw Imaginaerum. Nightwish’s music is categorized as symphonic power metal which, if I were to define it based on my Imaginaerum experience, is metal rock that sounds more classical than rock. Never ear-splitting nor migraine-inducing, Nightwish’s Imaginaerum is a powerful potion to send you to a dreamy trip into whatever imagination your mind is capable of conceiving.
By definition, a movie is a medium that combines visual and audio where scenes and dialogues are woven together by a story. I’ve always been a story person with a bias in favor of highly nuanced stories so films with nothing but loud noises and visuals on steroids (hello, Transformers!) never elicited a good word from me. But I happily make an exception with Imaginaerum.