I, like many, found the music to the film Drive intoxicating. It’s an unusual, atmospheric film. Slow moving, captivated with how cityscapes and light plays off of car windows. It’s actually one of the few films that captures the liquid sensation of driving. (Caveat: I adore driving, especially city driving at night. There’s something dream like and liberating to driving at night.) Ryan Gosling’s Driver (but I think of him as the Kid since that’s the only name he’s given in the film, so I’m using it here) and Carey Mulligan’s Irene are luminescent in their long stares of muted and eventually subsumed desire. If as Eve Kofosky Sedgwick argues, desire is a structure, then this is a film entirely structured by the effervescence of its two leads desire for each other, their concomitant desire for a tenuous normalcy, and the resulting utter collapse of that desire. It’s also a film that is startlingly quiet, suddenly loud, and extraordinarily and unexpectedly violent. Sound cues were actually the one way I had of knowing when not to look (I jump at loud noises and I tend to hide my eyes through extreme violence in films.)
Most of the music in the film was done by the former drummer for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Cliff Martinez. But this song, “A Real Hero,” by College featuring Electric Youth plays during the film’s first central devolution of it’s love story. Irene’s husband has just gotten out of jail, and this song plays during his coming home party. Escaping the party for a moment, Irene and the Kid share a moment in the hallway punctuated by smiles, awkward pauses, and silence. The song, with its lush sensuous pulse, pushes the two together emotionally even as Irene and the Kid physically strain to keep themselves apart. Inevitably, Irene’s husband Standard comes out into the hallway, but his presence is almost incidental to the story. He sends a ripple through the tension between Irene and the Kid, but the structure of desire in the narrative would still force Irene and the Kid apart even without the convenient plot device of Standard’s extortion problem. Typically, this type of music would be used as soundscaping to desire’s fruition, not its dissolution. The inverse here is part of why I think I’m still thinking of this song and this film.