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

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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

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