Review Summary: Calming yet still haunting, Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait broods, but that's all it does. It goes nowhere. Not to mention this is supposed to accompany the filming of a soccer game.
Despite being an American, I understand how exciting the game of soccer (football) is. At any moment, the game has the ability to turn decisively to one team’s side with just one stroke of the ball. There are certain players who have the ability to turn each game around just that quickly almost every game. Beckham, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, the names are countless. Director Douglas Gordon decided to make an interesting type of documentary of a player who fits right in the ranks of the previous players mentioned, Zinedane Zidane. The movie takes 17 cameras and points them all at Zidane during an April 23, 2005 game against Villarreal CF. That’s all the documentary does. It follows Zidane through an entire match, and nothing more. Zidane ends up being thrown out of the game for getting in a brawl in the final minutes of the match.
Considering this is an action-packed game of soccer, the music accompaniment for the documentary should be equally as intense when Zidane gets into action, right? Douglas Gordon called upon post-rock band Mogwai to create this soundtrack and it was probably a good choice. They have plenty of songs with climatic and huge points, but they also possess the opposite end of the spectrum. Mogwai was a busy band during 2006, releasing two soundtracks and their own LP, so this soundtrack obviously didn’t get that much attention. Still, Mogwai knew what the documentary was about and it seems they didn’t care. This isn’t musical accompaniment to soccer in anyway. There is not a single sense of climax or action in this album, and knowing there was a brawl in the movie, that doesn’t fit the movie at all. They seem to have gotten the song titles right, with songs like I Do Have Weapons
and Wake Up and Go Berserk
, but the music sounds nothing like the titles would imply.
Instead, Mogwai settles for downtempo, atmospheric music. They took the idea of a soundtrack in a different manner, that it should only serve as background music and never take focus away from the visual aspect of the film. Each song is a beauteous mix of simple clean guitar melodies, rich piano chords, and bass drones. The music itself is not bad, it is calming and beautiful. The chord progressions, the melodies, and the brilliant tugs on the tempo that the entire band sways with together all make each song enjoyable. But when that voice becomes every song and inevitably defines the album, it really gets boring. Nothing is memorable, and the listener is left with little recollection of certain moments on the album. As far as the typical tracks go, Wake Up and Go Berserk
is the best. It creates interest with many different melodies playing at the same time and none of them fit with each other. The guitar plays frantically while the piano strikes are solemn and few, in a way similar to Brian Eno’s Music for Airports. Guitar feedback drones throughout and grows throughout the song, giving about as much growth as the album gives throughout.
A slight bit of variety comes with It Would Have Happened Anyway
, the shortest song on the album. It takes an ambient sound, using all synthesized sound effects and the background noise of a crowd cheering. There is a good sense of dynamics about the song, with swell after swell after swell. Still, no memorable climax. This sound continues on a hidden track after Black Spider 2
. The track is 20 minutes of the same chord. Seriously, one chord. But the track might be the best on the album. It changes voices throughout, from the same exact voicing of It Would Have Happened Anyway
to an atmospheric chorus to an evil, sinister organ with a pounding bass drum to a feedback-enhanced guitar drone.
Not having seen the movie, whether the music fits the movie or not means nothing to me, even though I can’t see in anyway imaginable how it traces a game from the perspective of Zinedine Zidane. That doesn’t change my opinion of the album being incredibly boring. It drones on with the same kind of style, simple melodies and great chord voicings. Dynamically, the album sits in the same realm until the tail end of the album. The tempo is the same familiar drag on every track. Mogwai has tons of experience and every song is produced perfectly, executed perfectly, and the atmosphere is one of desolation and loneliness. I’m sure that at the times where Zidane is not doing anything in the game, the atmosphere of the music adds so much to the film. Had Mogwai taken their time and added a bit more to each song, this could have been a fantastic soundtrack. However, their rushed schedule and constant projects left them to only devote a small amount of time to this soundtrack, and it shows. Some of the tracks are just B-sides taken from previous albums. It’s a calming listen, but too boring to listen to all the way through.
Wake Up and Go Berserk
It Would Have Happened Anyway
Black Spider 2 (Hidden track)