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Sep 05 2018

Soundtracking: "45 Years"

byChris Feil

"They asked me how I knew..."

"Smoke Gets In Your Eyes"by The Platters is a cinematic staple,constantly showing up in films and yet hasn't become a cliche.The song has been used for umpteen other tragic romances in film likeBlue ValentineandThe Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant,not to mention countless less narratively significant needle drops on screen.But Andrew Haigh's45 Yearsis the one that wrings it for every last drop of its sweeping grandeur and matches the scale of its emotion...

Here the classic is the wedding song of Charlotte Rampling's Kate and Tom Courtenay's Geoff,and their first dance is set to be recreated during their large anniversary celebration.But the remembered passion of the beginning of their union and the excitement for the occasion begins to slip away as the discovery of Geoff's dead prior lover begins to make her question the bedrock of their marriage."Smoke..."builds with a consuming emotion much like the film and Rampling's performance,and when it finally arrives at the film's close,Kate and the song's feelings are opposed.

The song gets referenced early on a few times without being played for us,so it's like the film's freight train we're told is coming.Sounds similar to The Platters from the era of Geoff and Kate's beginning pop up elsewhere,like a cheerful but taunting reminder of how the glow of "Smoke..."begins to fade.It's a sound meant to embody the "forever and always"promise Kate had expected,the convicted simplicity of love that the melody imbues with an expectation of love without stumbling blocks or compromise.

Slowly,Kate begins to shut them out.She slams off the radio at a ballad,the sound of The Turtles "Happy Together"drowns out behind the closing door of a bathroom she hides in.The clarity of feeling is too much noise to bear,too uncomplicated for the collapse going on inside her.She can't stand the sound of happier days when she had no doubts of Geoff's that she was Geoff's only.The songs of their memories together have become a lie,belonging to someone else before her.

Geoff and Kate move in exactly opposite trajectories during the film,his resolve shaken by the memory of the lost woman ultimately giving way to gratitude and renewed passion for Kate.She emotionally opens the film where he ends,her warmth chipping away as she questions everything.When their big dance comes,he sings along and she's far away.

The song's operatic romantic certainty,one that pulls us into it as easily as the enrapt Geoff,becomes tragic when reflected against the actress's face,feeling things as huge as the song but contrasted to its sentiment.All of the song's effusive feeling is kept buried behind Rampling's brimming physicality,releasing itself only as she snatches her hand aware from an unwatching Geoff.The song builds us up with feeling like a balloon and Rampling's devastation is a deflating thumbtack in this incredible moment.It's the power of song,craftsmanship,and performance combined for one indelible musical moment to get lost in,catching your breath and not letting you exhale with The Platters' catharsis.

All Soundtracking installments can be foundhere!

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Reader Comments (14)

I've always found "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes"particularly annoying so I love how it's used in the movie,but above all I'm here to say that Charlotte Rampling was robbed with a capital R.

September 5,2018 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Such a devastating moment all the more so because Kate is all alone in suffering through it.

Brie Larson was good in Room,though to me she felt more like a supporting performer to Jacob Tremblay,but Charlotte Rampling's was the best performance in the running that year and should have emerged the winner.

September 5,2018 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

The words of joel6: I think the same !!!

And I still cry every single time that I listen Smoth Gets in Your Eyes.And is because of this towering movie and unbelievable performance of La Legend Mrs.Rampling.

She was rob at that Oscar!But I know that she didn't because of her commentaries about "reverse racism".

So sad.

September 5,2018 | Unregistered CommenterJon

That was a fantastic ending and terrific use of that very familiar song.

Rampling broke me in that scene - her facial expression and hand gesture could not be more perfect.I'm not sure if she deserved to win though - Ronan,Blanchett,Larson were all worthy.

September 5,2018 | Unregistered Commenterpawel

I still think ofThe Bitter Tears of Petra von Kantwhenever I hear "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes"while it was well-used in45 Yearsas that film makes me think of the Moody Blues' "Go Now".

September 5,2018 | Unregistered Commenterthevoid99

Chris,what a very lovely piece.You have managed to capture the elusive mystery that is this film.

Yes yes YES to all who said Charlotte was robbed.Her brilliance surpassed all who were in that illustrious lineup.

Great performance,great film.

September 5,2018 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

I wouldn't say robbed as Blanchett and Ronan would have made good winners,It's Brie's performance one of this decades worst but more so the role as written,it's such a boring story and for me Larson doesn't do very well in the 1 or 2 big emotional scenes,I though Jacob was real but Larson role wasn't one I found that compelling although her chemistry was gr8 with Jacob.

September 5,2018 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

Loved Smoke gets in your eyes since it appeared in American Graffiti.For 45 years-I have to say that Every line of that song had something to say about Kate's ordeal.You were glued to her expression while the song plays.
I wanted Brie to win for Room.I hope that Rampling gets rewarded for something down the road.At the time,it felt like the thought police had her ostracized for her views regarding the tiresome Oscar quota controversy.She even seemed to be ignored on the red carpet,though she simply dazzled.
I also loved how The Moody Blues song,Go Now,played over the credits.

September 5,2018 | Unregistered CommenterTOM

45 Years is just perfect.

Charlotte Rampling was certainly that year's "Can't believe they were smart enough to nominate but not smart enough to award"nominee,alongside Huppert,Manville,Cotillard,and Riva.In a perfect world,she would have been the runaway winner.I suppose at the time I was happy enough she got in.

She's equally incredible in this year's Hannah.Best performance of the year,and sadly it seems I'm the only one who's seen it.

Is there an actress better than her at acting completely alone and being so enthralling at it?There are long stretches in both films where we just watch her process a breadth of emotions too painful to verbalize.

I'm hoping she gets Best Actress at Cannes next year and completes her festival triple crown.:P

September 5,2018 | Unregistered CommenterRoger

Terrific film.

September 5,2018 | Unregistered Commenterbrandz

Of the string of Arthouse nominations is concerned: Cotillard > Rampling > Huppert.

September 5,2018 | Unregistered CommenterNate

That final scene is photographed so beautifully—looks like a million bucks.Here I am wishing that The Wife had an ounce of the visual confidence and aesthetic richness that 45 Years had.

I know it's off-topic and I'm a bit crabby about it.But apart from 20 minutes of (excellent) volcanic ACTING,hating The Wife has ruined my whole week.:(

September 5,2018 | Unregistered CommenterHayden

Charlotte Rampling should have won,and she was almost not nominated!That ending scene is one for the history books.

September 5,2018 | Unregistered CommenterSTFU

Rampling is perfect,but Blanchett was beyond perfection.She's made the impossible and topped her own performance in Blue Jasmine.

On Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,the best use of it was in Roberta,in which Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dance to it.It's in YouTube and it's beautiful!

September 6,2018 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

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