Nothing Else Matters
January 11, 2013 8:31 PM   Subscribe

Kathryn Bigelow's striking bin Laden manhunt thriller Zero Dark Thirty arrives in wide release tonight on the heels of a final artful trailer -- one with oddly familiar musical accompaniment. The funereal hymn, a cover of Metallica's "Nothing Else Matters" (lyrics), deftly recasts the 90s power ballad as a haunting dirge of quiet grief, shattered ideals, and a singleminded focus on revenge, a perfect distillation of the film's profoundly grim thesis. But while the song may be fitting, it wasn't composed for the project -- it's just the latest success story from Belgian women's choir Scala & Kolacny Brothers, whose mournful reinterpretations of classic and modern rock -- catapulted by their rendition of "Creep" in The Social Network -- have made them famous around the world, with star turns in the likes of Homeland ("Every Breath You Take") and Downton Abbey ("With or Without You"). Cover comparison site WhoSampled offers a list of YouTube comparisons between the covers and the originals; look inside for more of their work in movies and television. posted by Rhaomi (46 comments total) 81 users marked this as a favorite
(FWIW -- despite December's ZDT/torture thread, I totally wouldn't mind derailing into more general Zero Dark Thirty discussion now that it's in wide release and more Mefites have had a chance to see it; I just liked the use of the song here so much that I focused on that... and ended up sliding into a general Scala choir/movie trailer tangent. Oops.)
posted by Rhaomi at 8:32 PM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is fantastic!

The first time I saw the Zero Dark Thirty preview with "Nothing Else Matters," I had a very odd moment of "What song is this? Why do I know all the words? Why do I feel like a teenager?"
posted by a hat out of hell at 8:53 PM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

Since the derail was invited...I just saw ZDT and I don't think it's an apology for torture in any way. It presents torture as one of the methods used during the Bush years (and implies that Obama has shut it down) and that some of the people who were tortured provided useful information. This is very different from saying, we waterboarded some guys and he told us where bin Laden was. It's very clear that did not happen...and I say this as someone who has published a story in opposition to Gitmo and contribute to groups like Human Rights Watch and the ALCU.

I also found the movie very compelling, aside from the typical Hollywood "one person against all odds" story line and unfortunate but necessary simplifications. As a viewer, you are well aware that the bullets fired by a US soldier on screen represent real ones hitting real bodies, this is no James Bond-escapist fare.

Until there are enough declassified documents to know the true story, this should stand as a rather stark and apparently well-informed version of the events.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 8:59 PM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

This is my current favourite Nothing Else Matters cover, I think.
posted by elizardbits at 9:07 PM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

I have favorited this as a music post. It might be a long time before I see the movie. Thanks, Rhaomi.
posted by maggieb at 9:13 PM on January 11, 2013

I cannot be the only person who laughed out loud when Nothing Else Matters started playing in the ZDT trailer.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 9:30 PM on January 11, 2013 [7 favorites]

This is great!

I'm sure that I'm not the only MeFite who was only familiar with the arresting Creep cover from the trailer for The Social Network.

Awesome to learn more about this group
posted by graphnerd at 9:33 PM on January 11, 2013

When I saw Zero Dark Thirty I was struck by how Jessica Chastain was made to lurk around the edges of the frame, looking like she was about to be sick, during the torture scenes. Her character was clearly (to me, anyway) acting as a surrogate for the audience, which was meant to be shaken and unnerved by those scenes. And some have read the final scene, in which she (SPOILER!) breaks into tears, as a commentary on the general directionless (and, maybe, moral rudderlessness) of our "war on terror," though I'm not sure I agree. I'm still a little troubled by the film's politics, even if I think it's a pretty impressive work in terms of filmmaking craft. But, despite my misgivings, it's clear that "apology for torture" is a gross oversimplification of what's on screen.
posted by Mothlight at 9:34 PM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

I bow humbly, sweeping the floor before thee with the plumes on my hat, o mighty finder of awe inspiring, I think I'm in love, what voices, the concept and OMG.

Never before have I heard something that literally made my heart give a flutter when the voices started "Every breath that you take..."(unofficial version since Homeland isn't uploaded for my current homeland)

Gracias, kiitos, dhanyavad.
posted by infini at 9:36 PM on January 11, 2013

What's the soundtrack to the bit where Polio Vaccine compliance is destroyed?
posted by lalochezia at 9:38 PM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

I just saw the movie this evening and I suppose I agree with most that Bigelow did a good job telling the story in a non-sensational fashion.

That being said, I think, when one considers the fact that the over arching course of events shown were based on true events, the only place to find any "editorializing" or critiquing of events by the film itself is in the character of Maya.

Many films have suggested that revenge brings little healing or fulfillment but I personally felt a connection to this idea via this character, Maya. When 9/11 happened I was 11 years old. I remember being in my middle school cafeteria the day after and listening to fellow students talk about really getting Bin Laden and wanting revenge and, at the time, it's what 11 year old me wanted too. The film mentions that Maya was recruited by the CIA right out of high school, right around 9/11. There's something horrifying and sad and just plain not worth it to that. There's another scene that seems to suggest that she has little in the way of friends and hasn't had romantic companionship at all. Like life outside of revenge and torture and pursuit was on pause between 18 and 28.

I guess what I'm saying, in a way that hopefully isn't read as casting any kind of black and white judgement on the last decade of hardships across the world, is the captured in the following dumb but hopefully communicative words:

I don't have any tattoos but I've given it a lot of thought and my rule had become that I only want one if I'd be happy with it 10 years later.

When I was 11 I would have wanted Gambit from the X-men tattooed on my ass and I really wanted Osama Bin Laden dead. 10 years later, I was on my college campus, a senior, it was a weekend and people were already drunk when they heard the news. Some were so drunk they mistakenly shouted "we got Obama!" It was raining and something just armed wrong to have that as the punctuation to what some would call my young-adulthood.

Anyway, ten years on and I still think Gambit is one of the cooler x-men. I have no desire to have him emblazoned on my body permanently.

I felt quite sad for Maya in this movie.
posted by sendai sleep master at 9:42 PM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

But back to Scala and Kolacny Brothers... their version of "Heartbeats" is an equal of The Knife's original and Jose Gonzalez' cover.
posted by dw at 9:48 PM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

I keep reading Scala as Scalia, which is all kinds of weird.
posted by AdamCSnider at 9:54 PM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is a very respectful post of a group that's always come off as a kitschy joke to me. I mean, their first hit was their cover of I Touch Myself.
posted by roger ackroyd at 10:01 PM on January 11, 2013 [5 favorites]

I cannot help but think of the Gregorian chant version of Blue Monday (link). Great post. Thanks.
posted by Dark Messiah at 10:13 PM on January 11, 2013

I should mention that the word "armed" in my above comment should read "seemed". Apologies for taking up even more space here to state this correction.
posted by sendai sleep master at 10:13 PM on January 11, 2013

Thank you Dark Messiah.

Gregorian - Something in the Air

(I've just discovered a whole new genre of music after decades that I actually want to own and listen to, seems to fit my middle age)
posted by infini at 10:20 PM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

fwiw I was selected for teh school choir in my early teens but my parents pulled me out after a term because they were concerned I might be influenced to convert to Christianity.
posted by infini at 10:26 PM on January 11, 2013

From the jaw-dropping film review linked in the OP:

Watch the movie, then donate the equivalent of your movie ticket, if not more, to the CIA Officer’s Memorial Foundation. The Foundation provides educational support to the children of CIA officers killed in the line of duty.

Holy fucking shit do we not do this for them?!?
posted by DarlingBri at 10:43 PM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

My first instinct was to mash with Apocalyptica's version but it (at least my simplistic attempt) didn't seem to work very well.
posted by smcameron at 11:02 PM on January 11, 2013

Came for the covers, may stay for the film discussion even though I'm pretty sure I don't want to see the film.
posted by immlass at 11:18 PM on January 11, 2013

Mod note: Some comments deleted; please don't derail this to be an Obama/US politics post. Reasonable overlap in discussion of the film/music is fine, but this isn't a politics post. Thanks.
posted by taz (staff) at 11:32 PM on January 11, 2013

The ones that seem to work are the ones that are slow-ish songs or near acoustic to begin with.
A lot of the pop-ier songs just come off as novelty.

And especially in the male originated ones, my brain keeps hoping for some bass to balance out the high voices.

(Also, that conductor. Man, he gets excited. Really excited.)
posted by madajb at 11:42 PM on January 11, 2013

My favorite "Nothing Else Matters" cover:

Iron Horse (from Fade to Bluegrass)

(Oddly, Harptallica doesn't appear to have recorded one.)
posted by sourcequench at 11:52 PM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

The soundtrack for Zero Dark Thirty is definitely an improvement over Twenty-Nine, but I don't think they'll ever get close to the awesomeness of the soundtrack for Seventeen.
posted by LionIndex at 12:34 AM on January 12, 2013

I just came across Scala and Kolacny Brothers' cover of Suzanne, which I actually rather like compared to most of these. Of course, the song suits itself to their style more than a number of their other selections.

It's interesting to see that, in most of the videos, each girl is wearing an individual micro-size earset microphone instead of the more typical approach of micing the choir as a whole with a couple of more distant microphones. I'm sure their studio setup is different, but the overall effect is pretty similar. To my ear, the result is a strange seeming mix of crisp close-mic'd voices and the gratuitous slathering of reverb: you get both the crisp consonants you'd hear if you stuck your ear uncomfortably close into their personal space and the long tails you'd hear if you were standing at the other end of a long and narrow hall. It's a bit disconcerting.
posted by zachlipton at 12:37 AM on January 12, 2013

Riefenstahl loved the sweep and power of Wagner and Strauss. Eisenstein had his Prokofiev. All the iconic modern propagandists have had great soundtracks to go along with their work.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:26 AM on January 12, 2013 [6 favorites]

I cannot help but think of the Gregorian chant version of Blue Monday

But not the Gregorian version of Nothing Else Matters? heh.
posted by madajb at 1:50 AM on January 12, 2013

Reversing the theme a bit, one of the most memorable live music performances I experienced was by accident. I had wandered into this unique church in my new neighbourhood in Helsinki, just in time for this. The acoustics truly rock.
posted by infini at 2:03 AM on January 12, 2013

I just hope they don't get sued by Metallica
posted by Renoroc at 6:57 AM on January 12, 2013

But not the Gregorian version of Nothing Else Matters? heh.

I checked out the one linked in the post, but typically I avoid covers of that song. It's my least favourite good Metallica song; also heard it butchered by way too many "guitar players" (including myself).
posted by Dark Messiah at 7:47 AM on January 12, 2013

"Creep" worked because of the novelty, but if every dramatic film is going to start using these people to squeeze a little extra pathos out of their trailers, I'm going to download Metallica's entire discography without paying a cent for it.
posted by goatdog at 8:06 AM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Reminds me of the vkgoeswild stuff previously on the 'filter.
posted by eyeballkid at 8:18 AM on January 12, 2013

But back to Scala and Kolacny Brothers... their version of "Heartbeats" is an equal of The Knife's original and Jose Gonzalez' cover.

This was my introduction to Scala and Kolacny Brothers, by way of Diplo and his I Like Turtles mix. The track in question is featured at the end of the YT clip.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:26 AM on January 12, 2013

Wow, that Homeland trailer is spectacular. Makes me want to drop everything immediately and re-watch the whole of Season 2.
posted by pjenks at 9:33 AM on January 12, 2013

"What song is this? Why do I know all the words? Why do I feel like a teenager?"

That was exactly my reaction the first time I happened across the Johnny Cash version of "Hurt" back when it first came out. Despite having heard the original thousands of times, it was almost all the way to the end before I realized, Johnny Cash is singing Nine Inch Nails.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:33 AM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Riefenstahl loved the sweep and power of Wagner and Strauss. Eisenstein had his Prokofiev. All the iconic modern propagandists have had great soundtracks to go along with their work.

My gut reaction was to say something snarky like "have you even seen the movie" but I realize that is in large part due to the fact that the movie works, if it does at all, on a very subdued level. Some have said that it is too objective, too removed and thusly, by having such a quite editorial voice, it effectively has none and fails to matter as a film. Others, of course, have said that it works as propaganda supporting the US's utilization of torture. As I said above, I found the work impacted me in a way that confirmed my hungover, sick to my stomach feeling that was engendered by the last decade of events in my country. It's possible that the film really does have no editorial voice and therefore works like an ink blot, people see what they want to see in it. Potentially it IS propaganda and I misread it or willfully ignored the parts that made it so.

Whether this movie IS critical or even actively questioning of the morality of the events of the last 10 years may or may not be true. I really wanted that to be the fact, I admit that, and thusly I would really like to hear why you think the movie functions as propaganda. I went in with an admitted bias regarding what I wanted to see. If you could explain why you the film had such a different impact on you I might be able to figure out whether that bias is what lead me to the reading of the film that I came away with and then, ultimately, it might then be clearer what kind of film Bigelow made on a more objective level.
posted by sendai sleep master at 10:48 AM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Holy fucking shit do we not do this for them?!?

Death of CIA spy brings renewed hope for surviving family members details the founding and purpose of the foundation.

There is a spousal annuity and one for surviving children, but no particular educational benefit comparable to the GI Bill's Survivors & Dependents Assistance.
posted by dhartung at 12:22 PM on January 12, 2013

I would really like to hear why you think the movie functions as propaganda

Glenn Greenwald said a lot of what I'd care to say about it, but I'll offer a few more specific thoughts and leave it at that.

Interestingly, ZDT functions as propaganda not merely by lacking any credible, critical view of the methods used to pursue OBL, but, also, it incorporates the views and values of members of the government's espionage and military who played key roles in the events as they played out — again, without further comment.

At least, at no point in watching this film did I get the sense that anything being portrayed was critical of said values and methods. Nor could one see Bigelow as a filmmaker with much of a sense or tolerance for irony or humor in how she views the world through her camera, for that matter — in specific ways, she is almost an anti-Verhoeven.

But that aside, the film doesn't question with much of any critical eye what was once an established illegal practice, and instead presents the sort-of-fictionalized event (did it happen? did it not happen? only the CIA knows, and they say no) not only in a matter-of-fact way as a legitimate way to pursue someone we couldn't trust to put through our criminal system — much in the same way that Surnow's 24 gave a senior member of the US Supreme Court emotional ammunition to defend the truthiness of said practice — but it does so (for instance) by setting the sort-of-fictionalized event in a country with a horrible human rights — again, without further comment.

If the film is intended to be a record of history, it plays fast and loose with facts, and more to the point it does so using a structure that intends to manipulate the viewer (for instance, the director makes a conscious decision to present the sort-of-fictionalized torture scene immediately after the real and harrowing 9/11 audio footage).

And though the filmmaker is quick to remind that it is a work of fiction, it maintains its didactic structure that instructs you to keep your eyes on the prize: it's all about the end results. Don't ask questions about the reality or morality of what you're seeing. Nothing else matters. Victory defines the narrative, which glorifies victory — joylessly, perhaps, and certainly without irony, but it is glorification all the same.

I'll also note without much further comment that Riefenstahl never thought her work was propaganda, either, but rather her films were, to her, documentaries of history as it happened. But she, like Bigelow, also forgot that when you get the winners to help you write the history books shortly after events happen, the text always comes out Right.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:23 PM on January 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

I didn't think it worked as a good movie unless you view it as a total propaganda film (and certainly not as Oscar worthy regardless.) It problem is I didn't connect with the main character, and found that the film resisted all attempts to see her as a person rather than a role. At one point in the film, the director of the CIA comes down to the CIA cafeteria to talk with her, and the movie spends about 30 seconds on this conversation that could have, should have, gone on for 3 or 4 minutes, explaining why Maya, personally, is so invested in this manhunt. We, the viewer are being shown her story after all. Except we aren't, it's a propaganda film. The torture at the beginning (which happens in front of an American flag draped in clear plastic) really isn't central to the plot, only the movie's smartly done marketing.
posted by Catblack at 5:17 PM on January 12, 2013

What's the soundtrack to the bit where Polio Vaccine compliance is destroyed?

Polio Eradication: The Bad News Continues
posted by homunculus at 7:26 PM on January 12, 2013

homunculus, give us an FPP to talk about that without derailing this thread, please. I grew up watching my parents go out each weekend as part of the Polio Eradication drive.
posted by infini at 7:31 PM on January 12, 2013

Late to the post, but I have to mention their great cover of Teenage Dirtbag, which is the first time I heard them (and the song, believe it or not) on the podcast Coverville.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:59 PM on January 17, 2013

This is cool: "Nothing Else Matters" with the instrumental track transposed into major key

(via this AV Club post, which includes links to other songs with the same treatment.)
posted by Rhaomi at 5:56 PM on January 25, 2013

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