Donít Forget about Wagner!

        Creating the effect of drama in any movie takes just the right combination of dialogue with visual and aural aids. Music is one of the most effective elements in creating dramatic scenes. Without dialogue, silent movies had only two elements to work with--music and picture. So even the first movies had to have dramatic music. In respect to dramatic music, there is no other genre that can achieve this better than "art" music. Art music is music created strictly for music sake. Late classical to the end of the romantic era holds the bar high for dramatic expression. Late romanticism is definitely the era that helped push the bar over the top--literally, especially with composers like Richard Wagner, Hector Berlioz, Johannes Brahms. Wagner (1813-83) comes to mind immediately when "over the top" drama and music is concerned. For example, some of his orchestras performing his music were composed of an unprecedented number of musicians that only a few concert halls could hold. His music is hailed to be some of the most dramatic and expressive ever written, combining in equal proportions, dramatic story line with gut-wrenching themes and brilliant orchestration.

        Luis Bunuel's 1954 Los Abimos de Pasion, based on Emily Brontë's 1847 Wuthering Heights, about the tragic love of Heathcliff and Catherine, transformed into Alejandro (Jorge Mistral) and Catalina (Irasema Dillian), uses Wagner's 1865 Tristan und Isolde exclusively, showing just how emotional Wagner's music can be, combined with any story line. The movie opens with the famous Prelude and concludes with the equally famous "Liebestod," when Catalina and Alejandro are reunited after death in her tomb. Tristan und Isolde is hailed to be Wagner's most profound work, perfect for the tragic love story, for that is indeed the story of the opera. The opera reflects some of Wagner's own love affairs, but the opera itself seemed to grow greater than Wagner himself had intended. While Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet celebrated the poetic aspects of tragic adolescent love, in Tristan und Isolde, Wagner explores all the conscious and unconscious aspects of mature adult love--perfect for our story of Wuthering Heights.

        Music in any movie increases the experience of what is going on, whether it is two estranged lovers in a quarrel, the all-too-familiar train coming at the fair maiden tied to the tracks or just for a transition from scene to scene, music helps create that effect of drama. So when you are looking for that extra something for a dramatic scene-- "Don't forget about Wagner."

Josh Coffey

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