When film directors use opera music, it’s usually to give their film/scene a sense of more epicness (BTW, epicness is a word because it’s on the Scott Pilgrim poster. That’s reason enough.) But occasionally, using opera can do something else as well; it can lift the film, and make it spiritually soar. Or in the case of my first choice, it can be downright depressing. But it works. Here are five films which use opera well and allows it to assist in setting the mood without overdoing it:
1: Antichrist (2009)
Lars von Trier’s Antichrist opens with the best scene the man has ever directed. A slow motion ballet of sex and death, we watch as the protagonists He (Willem Dafoe) and She (Charlotte Gainsbourg) engage in vigorous lovemaking whilst in the other room their toddler falls out the window to his death. Heartbreaking, and astonishingly beautiful in its own weird way.
2: Philadelphia (1993)
Though Tom Hanks does overdo it a teensy bit in this scene, it still remains a powerful examination of opera music from an artistic mind. Andrew Beckett (Hanks) describes the music in an opera while a silent Denzel Washington looks on.
3: Life is Beautiful (1997)
In this brilliant, surprisingly light film about the Holocaust, there is a scene featuring opera which completely epitomises the feel of the film; its brilliance, its colour, its raw emotion. Just a fantastic way to top it off.
4: L’Age D’Or (1930)
Although the music in this scene doesn’t feature actual singing, it is an instrumental version of Liebestod, from Tristan and Isolde. It is beautiful music, and it tops off this wildly wonderful Buñuel mindfuck. Full of amazing imagery, it’s a film you mustn’t miss, and with a soundtrack that tops off the wonder of its visuals.
5: Apocalypse Now (1979)
Who could forget the classic scene of the approaching helicopters blaring Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries as they begin their attack? Hauntingly memorable; if not for the famous opera music it would be nothing. Coppola’s talent and touch adds in the much-needed element of music.
That’s my list. Any selections you’d like to add? Leave a comment below.