Continuing my thoughts from last month regarding the use of song in film, I’ll reiterate some that I’ve previously said. “Needle dropped” tunes are not considered part of a film score — those orchestral, choral, or instrumental pieces some consider background music. I think both are utilized as cues by filmmakers for a specific purpose or to elicit certain reactions by the audience. I’m fascinated by this in general, and movie soundtracks have specifically intrigued me. They represent a convergence of the music and film arts I’ve allocated much time toward. Some movie soundtracks (many my favorites) have incorporated those songs the director or music programmer have showcased in their movie along with the film’s score.
A few filmmakers have made it part of their filmography to incorporate popular song as a regular element in their work. Quentin Tarantino, for one. Hell, that director has been known to throw in dialogue from the actual motion picture as a track for the listener to relive. So, I’ve claimed this use of music, whether others like it or not, is very much a part of the movie experience and related to its composition. I continue to watch out for it in my movie viewing. My blogging colleague over at Fog’s Movie Review took note of this a few weeks back in his excellent, Tossin’ It Out There: What’s YOUR Favorite Song From a Movie?:
“… there’s a deep connection between the two arts, and sometimes that winds up creating an inseparable bond between the two in the viewer’s mind.”
Once more, I’ve selected a song used in more than one movie. Although, this one wouldn’t have climbed Billboard’s Top 100 for popular song. I say that because we are talking about an aria in this instance, a song you’d expect to hear at an opera. This particularly mournful piece, incorporating female and male contending voices, was used in a pair of films by the same director (with different film scorers) in equally quiet, moving scenes from two very different motion pictures from the 00s. Patrick Cassidy’s Vide Cor Meum.
Written by the Irish classical composer with Hans Zimmer specifically for this film adaptation of the Thomas Harris novel and its operatic production of Dante’s “La Vita Nuova”. The piece accompanied the sonnet “A ciascun’alma presa” in chapter 3 of the work, and remains a hauntingly beautiful piece of music. Ridley Scott’s sequence is tailor-made for the aria as it occurs during that scene of the outdoor opera in Florence with Inspector Renaldo Pazzi and his supposed quarry, Hannibal Lecter, in the audience. The director will repeat the song a few times, including the end scene, of this under-appreciated film. After Hannibal believes he has his opponent, FBI agent Clarice Starling, in his grasp. In both instances, the emotional aria is used to denote love — Pazzi for his wife that will be secured by the money he’ll receive with Hannibal’s capture, and Lecter’s belief his acts toward Starling will be reciprocated. However, the real impact of the evocative song the filmmaker achieved was the lament of the emotion’s loss. Signaling neither gets to hold on to it.
Kingdom of Heaven (2005)
For fans of this director, it may have caught them off-guard when the same tune was used four years later in his period epic that plays out across the Holy Land three religions lay claim upon. What did an opera aria (in Italian, no less), the exact same one written by that modern-day composer (though this film was scored by Harry Gregson-Williams) from the previous film have to do this tale? Sung again by Danielle de Niese and Bruno Lazzaretti, I’m predisposed to think Ridley Scott was repeating himself purposely in this re-application. Involved once more with love’s loss. The song centers on the character of Sibylla and her mourn of Baldwin IV of Jerusalem, her beloved brother dying of leprosy. The scene heeds that love, though shielded from her gaze of the plagued, cannot last. While she moves to protect her cherished son’s life by aligning herself to the one she most despises — her husband, Guy of Lusignan — it’s futile. In the end, the song heralds her forfeiture even with that as she’ll learn her most dear is a leper, too.
Note: YouTube and studios have blocked this uploaded scene. The above clip will have to suffice.
The entire series can be found here.