“We know how to make you feel uncomfortable”

One of the most tonally adventurous films of 2022, Bones and All is a lyrical romance that’s fiercely sincere but also darkly funny, deeply disturbing and punctuated with scenes of gory cannibalism. While screenwriter David Kajganich and director Luca Guadagnino are no strangers to bold genre shifts – their reimagining of Suspiria remains one of the boldest and most original horror films of the last 25 years – they believe all elements of Bones and Alle present new challenges and demands they and their employees created. Perhaps the most important collaboration in creating the distinctive mood of Bones and All was that between Guadagnino and his composers, the Oscar-winning duo Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.

Guadagnino had long been a fan of Reznor and Ross’ work with Nine Inch Nails and the scores they composed for films like The Social Network and Gone Girl. But he didn’t know if he could get them for the modestly budgeted Bones and All. He told IndieWire, “My agent suggested that we send the script to Trent and Atticus, and I said, ‘Would they be interested in a movie that small?'” Turns out, Reznor and Ross responded to the call had waited. “A few years ago we made a short list of people who we thought would be interesting collaborators to work with, and Luca was one of the names on that list,” Reznor said. “I remember getting wind that Luca was interested in us and that it was a love story about cannibals, and that was about all the information we needed.”

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The composers and director met virtually during the pandemic and immediately felt connected. “Luca was very articulate from the start,” said Reznor. “He said, ‘It’s a love story. I will photograph it in a subtle way. It will feel naturalistic. I want the music to be a character. I don’t want the music to overpower the film.” He had a list of descriptions of what the music needed to do, and it wasn’t heavy brass or anything. It was just feelings. And he also said, “Maybe it’s an acoustic guitar, a lonely acoustic guitar playing a beautiful melody that could anchor the piece. Maybe that’s true. Maybe it’s not. It depends on you.’ And that was enough to get us started.”

Reznor and Ross began writing music before the film was made, which then evolved as they saw what Guadagnino and his actors brought to the material. “Our focus was to find the basis for two specific guitar themes that Luca felt were appropriate for the love story,” Ross said. Guadagnino had made it clear to the composers that the love story was his main area of ​​interest, and they wrote accordingly, expanding and modifying the romantic themes after seeing the film’s first 4 1/2 hour cut. “When that cut came along and we saw these characters come to life and we saw the subtleties that the actors brought to it, that was a really important moment in our role as composers,” Reznor said, recalling thinking: “Wow, that’s what an artist can bring to the table.”

The guitars that evoke feelings of longing and romance in the love story become increasingly menacing as Sully, Mark Rylance’s terrifying antagonist, enters the film. “Luca said he wanted extreme perversity to be associated with this character,” Ross said. “It has its roots in an acoustic guitar with various other organic elements treated around it… it ripples into something pretty that can get quite intense. A lot of it blows — there’s a weird flute, the spit of a saxophone mouthpiece.” Reznor added, “That’s someone who’s lost his mind from being in that state for so long, and Luca said, ‘I would love if you could suggest perverted perversity and something uncomfortable and decadent.’ When it came to this site, we felt confident. We know how to make you feel uncomfortable.”

The challenge was to make the audience edgy while expressing what Reznor called “the beautiful and the sad and the romantic aspects of relationships,” but to a certain extent, the footage itself led the way. When they saw Guadagnino’s first cut, “they couldn’t believe how alive he felt,” Reznor said. “It didn’t deviate from what we knew was going to happen, but it just felt magical and turned into something we didn’t expect. It blew us both away, to be honest.” “That first viewing had an emotional impact, and that was a non-music viewing,” added Ross. The music that resulted was born not only from Reznor and Ross’ reactions to the film, but also from many long conversations with Guadagnino, who describes himself as “very privileged” to have worked with the composers. “These are real filmmakers doing great work,” he said. “They don’t just do this with their individuality, they meld their work into the fabric of the film and become part of it. I don’t think this film could do that [exist] without her.”

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