Celebrating Clint Mansell’s Birthday With a Listen Through His Best Soundtracks

As one of the most fascinating composers working today, Clint Mansell’s visceral sonic world not only compliments the films he scores, but elevates them with a feverish power. He creates soundtracks that haunt long after the credits have rolled, transcending the screen—keeping your sensory pleasure centers brimming with emotion. And with an affinity for working on films that fall into the realm of the psychological, his scores range from gut-punching and harrowing sonic tales to elegant and melodic whispers that creep into your bloodstream. Although best known for his perfectly symbiotic and fruitful relationship working with Darren Aronofsky on films from Requiem for a Dream and Pi to Black Swan and The Wrestler, in recent years Mansell has lent his tremendous talents to the likes of Park Chan-wook with Stoker and -Duncan Jones with Moon.

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In speaking with Mansell last winter, he discussed his process my noting:

I’m not very analytical really; everything I do is based on gut feelings. I just spend a lot of time with the film and with the characters and allow it to consume me, I suppose, and completely absorb it so that you’re thinking about it on a subconscious level. A lot of the films I’ve done have tended to have a main character who is driving the story whose journey I have to support. Black Swan was probably an example of that. This character was totally obsessed with her work and getting the role, but the fact that it’s a ballet, that music would have haunting her and taunting her the whole time. You know what it’s like, the first thing in the morning you might hear a record on the radio, and you can’t get it out of your head all day. So I thought well, if you imagine that the music is actually part of what you’re doing and you’re listening to it all day, it will drive you insane. To a degree, it’s very similar to what I do. I listen to the same bit of music over and over again. I see my stuff as a very Burroughs type approach.

…I like to write a piece and move it to a place where it wasn’t written for—which is not exactly a revolutionary idea but it does bring in an element of chance, so things occur that you wouldn’t naturally gravitate towards or wouldn’t have occurred to you. You can get these ideas in with like a very violent scene but with music that’s very beautiful—you can juxtapose and it gives you so much more than just the one note of: oh here’s sex, here’s violence, here’s a kiss; you musically can bring in other layers. You can build up an idea of who these people are. My job is to embellish the universe that the filmmaker is trying to create with this story and images and performance; everything I do has to be true to that world. You don’t want something to happen musically to take you out of the movie. So I’ve constantly got to find my way into these characters’ heads and be aware of the fact that if something doesn’t ring true that I’ve got to do something about it. Like in the film Double Indemnity, Edward G. Robinson is an insurance claims adjustor guy and he can spot something’s off with an insurance claim because he gets this little man that gives him indigestion— that’s kind of what it’s like.

And as today is Mansell’s birthday, what better way to celebrate than to take a listen through the best of his soundtracks?



MOON, Complete OST

PI, Complete OST