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Hans Zimmer on manipulating Edith Piaf for 'Inception': 'It's how you get from one dream level to the next'


Christopher Nolan
's dream-within-a-dream-heist comes with a taut, damning score, courtesy of the filmmaker's go-to-composer, Hans Zimmer. Yet the tense, minimal foghorn-like bellows take their inspiration from something far more delicate. Édith Piaf's "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien" was one of the composer's prime sources of inspiration for "Inception."

Zimmer spoke about the connection to our sister blog Hero Complex when the film was released, and a video comparing Piaf's take on "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien" with Zimmer's score has now become a viral hit (it's embedded below for those who haven't seen the almost spooky connection). The use of the Piaf song was included in Nolan's script, and Zimmer noted that it was almost cut from the film when Marion Cotillard, who starred as Piaf in 2007 film "La Vie en Rose,"  was cast.

Zimmer said he persuaded Nolan to keep the song in the film, and noted that pieces of the Piaf song were stretched and manipulated to fit into the score. Credits on the soundtrack's "Half Remembered Dream," which is used repeatedly throughout "Inception" in some of the film's most tense moments, note that the piece contains "interpolations" of the Piaf tune.

"If you were to see this movie a second time," Zimmer said, "you realize the last note you hear in the movie is the first note in the movie. It’s a Möbius band. But the next thing you hear over the logos is actually telling a story. You realize that the elements that we’ve extracted from the Piaf song are the way you get from one dream level to the next. When the movie starts, some action has already happened."

Nolan, said Zimmer, planted the idea that led to the composer twisting Piaf's number. "What Chris found interesting was its rhythmic phrase," Zimmer said.

Listen to the comparison below, and read more about Zimmer's thoughts on Piaf on Hero Complex.

-- Todd Martens

Photo: Hans Zimmer. Creidt: Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times

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Comments () | Archives (3)

I'm not usually a fan of Zimmer's work. Most of his scores sound too similar to each other and he tends to rely too much on synthesizers rather than a real orchestra. That being said, manipulating that song into a much more menacing sound was ingenious on Zimmer's part.

Did the french song come in at the end of the credits ?
Someone told me it did. I must have missed it.

The Original by Édith Piaf appears for a while at the end of the credits. Truely great interference along with the creepy and menacing music - really tense.

And I do not agree that Hans Zimmer's scores sound too similar. Sometimes similarity gives you that "je ne sais quoi" feeling when listening and watching the movie than much more complexed tunes ever do.

Again the Academy disregarded his masteрiece at the Oscar ceremony for the 7th time! :(

Still he remains one of the truely most inspiring and creative musical composers nowadays together with John Williams, Alan Silvestri, Danny Elfman and more! :)

Inception OST has become one of my personal favorites. And I've been listening and exploring movie soundtracks for the past 15 years.

Anyway - This is my opinion and I stick to it. After all it's a matter of taste and opinion.. ;)



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