Why The Life Aquatic still has a piece of my heart.
Imagine driving to do a simple errand when the perfect song for that exact moment in time starts filtering through your speakers. The bustle around you, the lights in the buildings, even your windshield wipers synchronize to the rhythm. We all experience a version of this—where music unexpectedly appears to score our lives and it’s such a powerful force even a nacho chip run can suddenly feel poignant. The right song at the right time has the ability to embed a memory not only from our own lives, but from a scene in a film we watched years ago.
A soundtrack moment that stayed with me for a decade comes from “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou”. As the crew descends in the submarine, Zissou finally has the chance to see the Jaguar Shark that has consumed his waking life. During the pivotal reveal, the song “Starálfur” by Sigur Rós swells into the soundscape and brings with it emotions I didn’t know I could feel for a fictional sea creature. The usage of this particular song remains my strongest memory of the entire story—which incidentally is my favourite Wes Anderson movie. I had never heard the track before the film and it is permanently connected to the sentiment expressed by the characters in that specific scene. As an unexpected result of this association, the song has become my go-to track for any moment when I want to feel like a small atom in an infinite universe of possibility and heartbreak—be that a plane take off or an intimidating passport line up. When those strings rise—everything feels significant.
Never underestimate the impact of music on memory and emotional connection. If done right, it embeds the story where it can’t be forgotten.