hmv.com presents… The Best Soundtracks of All Time: Adaptation
As part our 'Decades' series, every day we'll be picking the best soundtrack, one for every year, starting with 1950 right through to the present day. Today we're up to 2002 and we're recommending the soundtrack to Adaptation...
Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman’s mindbendingly meta Adaptation.
So what’s the film about?
Nicholas Cage plays neurotic screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (the real life writer of the film). He’s hired to write the screen adaption of the real life non-fiction bestseller The Orchid Thief, but he can’t find the inspiration in the story. Meanwhile his twin brother Donald (again played by Nicolas Cage, but not based on a real person) moves into his house, and decides to become a screenwriter as well.
Where as Charlie struggles to keep his artistic integrity, Donald throws himself into the world of the standard scrip three-act structure and soon finds that he gets more success than his brother. Charlie’s problems are further complicated when he starts meeting up with the book’s original author (Meryl Streep) and the dangerous orchid thief of the title (Chris Cooper), and finds his life turning slowly into a Hollywood movie…
Is this a score or a soundtrack?
A score, by Carter Burwell.
So what’s it like?
Carter Burwell is the go-to composer for the Coen brothers, and brings a lot of usual tricks to Jonze’s film. It’s quite sparse, with a haunting guitar throughout the stripped back early parts, but slowly building as more and more strings are added as it goes on.
What does it give the film?
The crux of the film is that Cage’s character is actually writing the film we are watching. It starts out as a talky indie drama and ends up as an action thriller in Florida’s swampy bayous. Burwell gets this, and fills the early parts out of the score with an eerie, ominous feeling that give the film a sense of foreboding, even though it’s often just people in rooms discussing scripts. By the end however, he tips into Hans Zimmer mode, creating almost a traditional Hollywood action score as the film reaches its action packed conclusion.
What’s the best moment?
Despite Burwell’s great score, our favourite part is probably the one song on the CD - The Turtles’ 60s classic ‘Happy Together’, which features throughout the film and plays over the end credits.
Has it stood the test of time?
Burwell is still one of the most respected composers in Hollywood, and this is as good as any score he’s written.