Why Music Matters in ‘Moonlight’

Everything means something in a film this personal.
By  · Published on May 31st, 2017

Everything means something in a film this personal.

There’s a lot to love in Moonlight, Barry Jenkins’ modern classic from last year that stormed awards season and stole the hearts of both critics and the public at large. Aside from its excellent screenplay and an array of deeply affecting performances, there was beautiful cinematography and an impressive attention to color to boot. But underlining it all was an impeccable usage of music.

The music of Moonlight ranges from Nicholas Britell’s sensitive, string-heavy original score to songs by Goodie Mob and Barbara Lewis, and yet each of these sonically different tracks blends into each other within the film. This is in part due to Jenkins’ experimentation with the “chopped and screwed” technique, which originated within the hip-hop scene in Houston, to slow down and warp the sound of the film’s music. The same way he uses colors and repeating imagery to paint the development of Chiron, Jenkins’ experimentation with music adds yet another layer to it.

Here to break down these techniques for us is Mr. Nerdista, who has made the following video essay that goes into detail for each track in the film. Much has been said about this film, but as the saying goes, a great film is one you notice something new every time you watch it.

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21. Filmmaker. Writer for Film School Rejects. Featured on MTV, Indiewire & The A.V. Club.