Last Friday we hosted a special screening of Darkness on the Edge of Town, a film by Emmy and Grammy-award winning filmmaker Thom Zimny. The Darkness on the Edge of Town film is part of Bruce Springsteen's remarkable new box set, 'The Promise: The Darkness on the Edge of Town Story released this past November. It includes a remastered version of the album, two cds of outtakes, a documentary about the making of the album, a full concert from 1978, and the film we screened. In Zimny’s film, Springsteen and The E Street Band perform their 1978 album in sequence at the Paramount Theater in Asbury Park, but with no audience present. The result is a stark and intense interpretation of the album.
The film brilliantly creates a sense of an album, not just a set of songs: there is no spoken introduction, no interviews, no content for the album itself. It begins with some haunting black-and-white footage of the amusement park buildings in Asbury Park shot in the late 70s, followed by a few shots of the band arriving at the theater. Then the band launches into “Badlands,” and it never lets up. In between songs, the film fades to black and goes silent. The pauses are about the same length as the pauses between tracks on an album. It even includes the sound and image of a needle dropping on a record.
In the lighting and stage set, the film evokes film noir, an appropriate reference given how much Springsteen was getting into film at the time the album was made. There’s not a lot of warm light in these songs—after all, the blinds on the original album cover were shut tight. There’s not a lot of fun (in the “Rosalita” or “Spirit in the Night” sense) on the record—there are dues to be paid, accounts to be settled. The film conveys that visually in every frame.
After the screening, Thom Zimny talked at length about putting the film together in collaboration with Bruce Springsteen.
View clips of this interview: