Hollywood’s on-again, off-again love affair with classical music

Posted on: October 10, 2017

“I loved director Kenneth Lonergan’s lyrical and poignant ‘Manchester by the Sea’—for its acting, its screenplay … and, less obviously, its score,” writes Anne Midgette in Friday’s (10/6) Washington Post. “The director uses classical music not only to support the dialogue, but also, in some cases, to replace it … Classical music also is a focus of ‘Margaret,’ Lonergan’s earlier and bigger opus, hailed by some as his masterpiece. … But it effectively reduced opera to the stuff of long-standing Hollywood stereotype. … Film directors tend to use classical music in one of two ways. Sometimes, it’s simply used as a regular soundtrack, an accompaniment to the story: Rachmaninoff’s second piano concerto in David Lean’s ‘Brief Encounter,’ Schubert’s ‘Unfinished’ Symphony in Stephen Spielberg’s ‘Minority Report,’ or any of the pieces in ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ … Classical music seems to work most effectively—to leave its tropes, if you will—in films that question, challenge or recontextualize it. … The ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ scene in ‘Apocalypse Now,’ thrusting together glorious music and nightmarish images of war, taps into decades of debate about Wagner and morality and the conundrum of people who do bad things but love good things.”


In photo: A scene from the 1984 film Amadeus, with actor Tom Hulce conducting as Mozart.

Posted October 10, 2017