Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ soundtrack to Gone Girl — the third collaboration with director David Fincher — begins mellow, smooth yet haunting. The congruence of strings, bells, and synths melt together, occasionally giving way to tiny glitches and portals scratching against the concrete covering a cinematic wormhole led by Batman-in-training, Ben Affleck, as his character navigates the backlash following the disappearance of his wife.
When the concrete gives way — initialized by Fincher’s ratcheting tension in the film — Reznor and Ross let us have it. The sounds drip, crawl, and plod out. A digital orchestra is squeezed through a collapsing corridor lined with barbs and thorns, and, at the other end, what we’re left with is a broken music box, hissing chords and notes oozing and dousing our toes with puddles of puzzled platitudes concerning the media and social recognition.
Although it’s only their third pairing on film, Fincher and Reznor have already proven that their tag-team is Oscar-worthy, and also, just getting started.
David Fincher’s knack for directing film seems to be prodigious. In his early 20s, he was already working on major studio films like Return of the Jedi and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (it didn’t hurt that George Lucas was his neighbor). Through the 80s, Fincher helmed commercials and promos for corporations such as Nike, the American Cancer Society, and Pepsi, as well as immersing himself in music video work for the likes of Madonna, Paula Abdul and Sting. In 1992, he would get his first break in major motion pictures with the poorly received Alien 3.
…if nothing else, it was a situation where I got to see first hand that if I wasn’t going to make the decisions myself, there are plenty of people who are going to line up to chime in and almost no one was going to be there when the shit hit the fan and the movie is judged. You just learn from that situation. You just say “If I do this again, I’m going down with the ship, so I’m going to make those decisions and I’m going to work with the people that I want to work with and I’m going to be involved in everything.
To say that the Alien sequel was a learning process would be an understatement: not one of Fincher’s films, since his debut, have dipped below the 70% mark on Rotten Tomatoes.
In 1997, Fincher, after having used the track “Closer” for the title credits of Se7en, met Reznor on the set of the video for “The Perfect Drug.”
Like Fincher, Reznor’s talent began manifesting itself at an early age. He was playing piano at five, and in high school, he would learn to play the tuba and saxophone. His debut album as the frontman for Nine Inch Nails released in 1989, but it wasn’t until the band’s sophomore album, The Downward Spiral, was released in 1994 that the world took notice of the cutting edge rock group.
During this time, though, Reznor was abusing drugs and alcohol, and the toll of the substance abuse began to mar his ability to write and produce.
I thought I could get through by putting everything into my music, standing in front of an audience and screaming emotions at them from my guts … but after a while it didn’t sustain itself, and other things took over – drugs and alcohol.
In 2000, while on tour in London, Reznor bought what he thought was cocaine, and after ingesting the white, powdered substance, he woke up in a hospital after having been resuscitated; the substance was China white heroin.
It was a moment of clarity for the forward-thinking musician: he completed rehab in 2001 and began his quest for musical immortality, a quest that would be facilitated by one of the best contemporary directors in the world.