Musics ability to create subtle yet powerful emotional experiences in movies has always intrigued me. It is probably my favorite part of filmmaking in general. So when we touched on the concept of melodrama in [Week 5], a million thoughts came to my mind.
Melodrama is derived from the Greek words meaning music and drama. In other words, musical emotion. What a powerful tool. We have seen it used in films every possible way to convey every possible emotion. But what are the extremes? Can they be stretched? Is there a limit on how music is used to aid visual communication?
When we started talking about Music and Drama in class, my first thought was Fantasia. Here is a film that uses nothing but music to convey emotion. It takes you on a roller-coaster of emotion using otherwise non-sensical cartoons.
Somehow, a powerful score lets audiences accept that there are brooms walking around like poorly programmed robots flooding a room with buckets of water. Mickey Mouse is pointing at stars and they are magically lighting up before his eyes. Not only does music turn this weird cartoon into a gripping narrative, but it also creates a dramatic experience like nothing before it. Music and film come together so seamlessly, audiences are completely absorbed into the experience and you can’t focus on just one or the other.
This is melodrama on an extreme level, where the film built around the soundtrack.
I can think of many other examples that use musical score to underscore dramatic narratives in such a way that people remember movies because of the soundtrack. Requium For a Dream, for example. Whenever me and my friends bring that movie up in conversation, we always call it “the movie with the Dolby Digital song. Dolby Digital actually picked up the song afterwards for their advertisements because it was such a great song. But the point is that we remember the song in that movie because it took the movie experience to a whole new level. The already dramatic movie was enhanced because of how well the soundtrack worked.
This is another medium of creativity that is just starting to be explored. Just recently, movie scores are being composed by popular bands, such as NIN (Trent Reznor for The Social Network) or Daft Punk (for TRON). I think this trend is going to continue, and as they start using more bands, melodrama possibilities are going to be stretched to yet another milestone.