Album Review: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross – The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo OST

[The Null Corporation / Mute; 2011]

Going right back to before Trent Reznor accepted the job from David Fincher to produce the score for The Social Network, there’s a chance that this complimentary pair may have never worked together. Reznor first declined due to band priorities with Nine Inch Nails, but after Fincher waited patiently, Trent Reznor paired up with Atticus Ross to make the multi award winning film score, including a Golden Globe and Academy Award for Best Original Score. So it was exciting news to say the least when it was announced that the pair would be taking on the score for a Hollywood adaption of the worldwide phenomenon, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Just as Rooney Mara became so enraptured by her starring role as Lisbeth Salander, Reznor and Ross became equally obsessed with creating music for the film, so much so that upon my hearing of the finished product, ‘atmospheric’ sounds like a weak adjective to describe it.

Decidedly more ominous and foreboding than The Social Network, there are still elements of their previous work together although this time it’s stripped back and laden with paranoia as percussion ticks like a time bomb and each stroke of the piano keys sounds like a watchful footstep. It’s hardly rhythmic as countless elements come and go throughout the course of nearly three hours without warning as mysteriously as Lisbeth Salander herself. The dystopian soundscapes that are encapsulated within sound apocalyptic and extra terrestrial, especially on “Perihelion,” in which it sounds like satellites in space are transmitting panic signals whilst crashing towards earth in a fiery ball of muted screams. As a whole, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo OST doesn’t sound humane and this could be in reflection of Lisbeth Salander’s icy demeanor.

Apart from “What If We Could?” which features hints of emotion as the title provokes a small glimmer of hope. With soft piano melodies, the song makes for reflective music, something that can’t be said for the rest of the soundtrack. It feels like a rest from the plethora of industrial drone slow-builders and feels strange to hear amongst a sea of grit and doom. The most notable quality about Reznor and Ross’ score is the instilled ability to feel, if their cover of “Immigrant Song” (with Karen O) doesn’t make you feel like a badass, then there’s something wrong with you. There’s something special about this pairing that puts other film soundtracks to shame as the music becomes the film and affects your viewing, in a positive way. If you watched either The Social Network or The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo on mute, it wouldn’t have half the effect it does with Reznor and Ross’ creations following every move.

As many hollow and eventually dated film soundtracks have come and gone throughout the years; it’s become clear that now more than ever, a complimentary soundtrack is essential to the success of a movie. Hearing a soundtrack within a film, it’s often easy to let the music blur into the background focus on the dialogue but Reznor and Ross have managed to balance creating fitting soundscapes without overshadowing the poignant dialogue. It takes you on a journey to Stockholm and into the depths of Hedestad where the movie turns horrifically wrong within such a short space of time. Even without the context of the film, the soundtrack makes you feel like a clandestine individual on a mission involving the darkest of secrets.