diskant is an independent music community based in Glasgow, Scotland and we have a whole team of people from all over the UK and beyond writing about independent music and culture, from interviews with new and established bands and labels to record and fanzine reviews and articles on art, festivals and politics. There's over ten years of content here so dig in!

 Subscribe in a reader

Recent Interviews

diskant Staff Sites

More Sites We Like

Your favourite movie soundtracks #6: Mandy Williams on The Piano and Betty Blue

Posted: September 19th, 2007, by Simon Minter

For me there are two different types of film score that work well. The first are thos with songs by established artists that punctuate a film, illustrating the scenes and rooting them perfectly in time. The Commitments and Trainspotting are good examples of this approach. The other are scores specifically written for films which can never be separated from the imagery that they seek to highlight.

From the latter category, there are two soundtracks that stand out. I rushed straight out and bought them both after seeing the films and whenever I listen to them I get an immediate sense of the story. The first is Michael Nyman’s haunting soundtrack to The Piano. The second is Gabriel Yared’s score for Betty Blue/37° Le Matin.

Jane Campion’s The Piano is the story of a mute Scottish woman who travels with her daughter and her beloved piano to a remote spot on the coast of 19th century New Zealand for an arranged marriage, and who begins a stormy involvement with her illiterate neighbour. Nyman’s almost naive music works on an emotional level, and transports you immediately to the windswept beach when you hear it. The score veers between the Caledonian character of the main protagonist and the contrasting barrenness of the new world she finds herself in. It has an almost Wicker Man feel to it. The orchestral immediacy – yet jarring forcefulness – suggest the frustrations of her mute world.

Jacques Beineix’s passionate love story, Betty Blue, tells the tale of handyman and failed novelist Zorg, who has his life turned upside down by Betty, a free spirit whose passion for life veers towards the pathological. Its brief ode to love, ‘Betty et Zorg’, is an eerie piano theme punctuated with one discordant key that leaves you with a lump in your throat as it is repeated throughout the film to
highlight the girl’s descent into madness. It becomes a motif for the differing moods in the film. The bluesy version creates a sense of loneliness and isolation, yet when it is played as a brass solo it evokes pure joy and love.

The Nyman piece is more fluid, Yared’s fragmented, but they are similar in as far as it is the title track that dominates and guides each soundtrack. There are no conceptual or intellectual ideas here. Both are memorable because they are emotional roller-coaster rides, romantic, haunting and almost primeval. They strike a chord with anyone who has been in love or lust and both manage to illustrate beautifully the mind of a troubled soul by means of beat and string.

Buy The Piano in diskant’s Amazon.co.uk store

Buy Betty Blue in diskant’s Amazon.co.uk store

Simon Minter

Simon joined diskant after falling on his head from a great height. A diskant legend in his own lifetime Simon has risen up the ranks through a mixture of foolhardiness and wit. When not breaking musical barriers with top pop combo Sunnyvale Noise Sub-element or releasing records in preposterously exciting packaging he relaxes by looking like Steve Albini.


1 Response to Your favourite movie soundtracks #6: Mandy Williams on The Piano and Betty Blue

  1. Anonymous

    I cant believe you didnt mention the soundtrack to ‘Turner and Hooch’.