I wrote this post when Inception first came out in theatres for now defunct blog collective, Strangers in Stereo.  Since it no longer has a home there, never had a home on Tadpole Audio, and Hans Zimmer’s work on the score has been lauded all over the place this awards season (including an Academy Award nomination) – I thought I would share it once more!

Photo Credit: Warner Brothers

Who hasn’t been talking about Inception for weeks now?  It’s an epic mind scramble that everyone has a different opinion about.  You can’t help but want to dissect each seemingly insignificant detail and read every possible theory.  And there’s been just as much buzz about the Hans Zimmer / Johnny Marr score collaboration – Marr is featured on 8 of the 12 tracks on the soundtrack and you can even stream their performance at the premiere here.  Even the actors gushed brilliant words about Zimmer.  But what I’m interested in is Edith Piaf.

No, I’m not talking about Marion Cotillard though it is an amusing coincidence that the only licensed music used in the film is by the artist that gave Cotillard her Oscar-winning role.  I mean Edith Piaf’s “Non Je Ne Regrette Rien” or “No, I regret nothing” used over and over as the trigger to indicate ten seconds before the “kick.” In the case of Inception, what’s impressive is not the specific moment where the song is used that is fascinating (since it’s used many times) – it’s the thematic significance of the song and the artist to the film as a whole.

One could probably write a whole paper on it, but for now here’s some nifty food for thought.  Christopher Nolan clearly had Piaf in his head from the very beginning.  “Je Ne Regrette Rien,” recorded in 1960, was written into the script even before Zimmer was attached to the project, and according to an article in Billboard was a source of inspiration for the composer:

“I said, ‘No one is going to be that shallow and that dumb and think that that’s some kind of a joke,’ ” Zimmer says. “[Using] Piaf and Chris shooting some of these scenes in Paris were really important because I think that laid the foundations for an emotional journey: the half-remembered dream.”

Interesting then that the song isn’t present on the soundtrack as a whole, but a snippet of the vocals pop up within the track “Waiting For A Train” – so briefly you could miss it.  The lyrics eerily echo the films theme of haunting guilt and regret.  Unfortunately I can’t go into much detail since it would ruin the film, but I will point out one phrase heard over and over: “Do you want to become an old man, filled with regret?”  Piaf’s song is exactly how all the characters, especially Leonardo DiCaprio’s Cobb wish they felt.

No, nothing of nothing
No! I don’t feel sorry about anything
Not the good things people have done to me
Not the bad things, it’s all the same to me.

Lastly, check out another interesting Piaf/Inception parallel I found via this soundtrack review:

First watch/listen to this:

Then listen to this:

Edith Piaf “Heaven Have A Mercy”

Like Cotillard’s casting, this may be another coincidence – still cool though, right?

Edith Piaf “Non, Je ne regrette rien”

Hans Zimmer “Waiting For A Train”

Purchase Inception: Music from the Motion Picture here.

  • The Social Network score is unique, but don’t count out Hans Zimmer’s brilliant (and also innovative) work on Inception http://tadpoleaudio.com/2011/02/film-mus

    • emilyhogan

      @tadpoleaudio It’s definitely a tough decision between the two, but I think Social Network’s music is my favorite.