• Reel Reviews

Music of Submarine Surfaces with Uncommon Emotion

written by: on November 10, 2011

The first five seconds of the “Stuck on the Puzzle” intro as a composition can tell you everything there is to know about the film without any spoken words. It’s mysterious, adventurous, flowing, soft and foggy. A light piano plus some gentle guitar with the familiar voice of Alex Turner, frontman of Arctic Monkeys, that leads into an inspiring compilation of visual accompaniment right off the bat. How one man can accomplish such with so little effort is a mystery.

Turner pulls off a score of music on Submarine’s EP that isn’t like any tune from other movies.

As a whole, it kind of sounds like a mellow Arctic Monkeys EP that was never released. And that’s pretty much what it is, anyway. Turner took it over as a solo project and performed very well for himself. The work he did is impressive. It must not have been easy for him as a musician to be handed a script and told, “Write music for this.” To accompany any film must be difficult enough, but to write for Submarine must have been especially challenging.

With a limited American release in August, Submarine tells the story of young love through the eyes of 15-year-old Oliver Tate. Set in three parts, the film showcases the boy’s three current goals and their travel toward accomplishment: losing his virginity, mending his parents’ marriage, and seeing the two motives collide. Dispersed throughout are the six tracks Turner put together for the film, each with a unique energy that fits nicely between the lines of the film but also on their own as a somber set of tunes that tell a story.

The movie is obscure in a way, and although it may resemble other pieces of British film styles, it’s quite unlike anything else released in America.

If the mood here in the EP weren’t so hushed, maybe the film’s overall tone could’ve been perceived as much lighter. But instead, a comical screenplay mashed with the dark light of the music to create the final effect: a funny and charming movie with hard-hitting underlying themes. Without Turner’s contribution, the film might have just brushed past its viewers and not sent a message through them. Sprinkling in a few classics and a handful of up-and-coming British artists’ tracks, and the compilation would’ve been made. Instead, the inspiring words of Turner add depth to the already-thick story at hand and create a really effective mash of elements.

The screenplay of Submarine is so obviously inspired by the book of the same name, written by Joe Dunthorne. This EP flows just like the lines of a novel, with lyrical work written almost like a book instead of a soundtrack. Each word is sung like a ballad with the first and final verses acting as bookends.

Viewers are treated to some of the most visually stunning effects of the year to assist in telling the story. A significantly memorable sequence showed the young couple as they held hands and ran by the waterfront, lay together in the grass, and lit fireworks and watched them glow. With the guidance of Turner, all clichés are somehow avoided. This is a wonderful feat of the film, especially with such romantic context.

This is like the time you were so deep in love that you didn’t care how dumb you acted. Arctic Monkeys really don’t brush over these types of writings, so it may have been a bit of a trying experience for this songwriter on his own.

The challenge was matched, though, with plenty of vigor. In “Glass in the Park,” Turner sings, “Paraselene woman, I’m your man on the moon/And like a grain of diamond dust, you float/And my devotion’s outer crust cracks.” You really don’t hear of this anywhere else. Take it for what it’s worth because words like these don’t come around very often.

People who haven’t even seen Submarine could connect with this music. Maybe that’s why “Piledriver Waltz” was added to the latest release from the Arctic Monkeys. The parading tune can tell a story on the radio just as well as it did in Submarine. It has the capability of stretching to a multitude of audiences both audibly and visually, reaching out to remind people who, “if they’re going to try and walk on water, do it while wearing comfortable shoes.” With that, Turner rolls the credits himself.