The Magic of Music in Film

There is this feeling you get when a good piece of music accompany’s a scene in a film. The scene’s suddenly speaking a unquie language that touches you in the centre of your being. Sometimes, you hardly notice that there’s music playing in the first place sometimes you do. Both times you’re left hearing the very soul of the film almost as if the film itself were saying more than the characters on screen, the film bears its itself and you get it, you hear it, you feel that scence and just like that you understand the film in its entirety that bit more. Or not. But if you do, those moments are when I fall in love with the art that is film all over again.

Begin Again Film Poster
Begin Again Film Poster

Recently I had one of those moments watching a film called Begin Again, its starred Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo as Greta and Dan. Dan is a creative, artistic washed up, once successful, music producer that refuses to compromise his ideals to conform to the changing times of the music industry. Greta is singer/songwriter who after writing beautiful songs that know one really hears, accompany’s her boyfriend (Adam Levine) to New York at the surge of his music career. After Dan, who just lost his job, discovers Greta they embark on a journey to producing her album in a unique and inspired fashion. Review for this tim can be found here.

Half way into the film, there’s this moment, at midnight, when the pair (Dan and Greta) are sitting atop a set of steps, looking out into Times Square, New York City, observing the passersby and the general activities taking place at the time. They’re both listening to the same peice of music, with their headphones,  As Time Goes By from the classic film Casablanca, one of my all time favouritesAnd as the music plays on on the background Ruffallo says, looking out into the street, “This is what I love about music, even the most Benign scenes is suddenly invested with so much meaning, you know. All this benignities is suddenly turned into the beautiful effervescent prose. From music.” And I thought, how very apt.

Midnight in Paris Film Poster
Midnight in Paris Film Poster

Woody Allen, one of my favourite directors, has a knack for speaking to his audience through the means of music in his films. I believe it what’s gives his films that added fullness and richness that compliments his whimsical and wistful air we’ve come to admire and associate with Allen. One of my favourites of his is Midnight in Pariswhich he wrote as well as directed, though not one of his better loved films, I can no longer hear Sidney Bechet’s Si tu vois ma mère without picturing Owen Wilson walking along the banks of the river Seine at midnight. Or From, another one of my favourite films of his, Radio Days, hearing Glenn Miller’s  In the Mood track sends you straight back to the movie or The Ink Spots’s If I Didn’t Care, I could go on. 

And sometimes, after you get that feeling, you realise you must add that music to your playlist, and so beings the interesting journey of looking for a song you only know part of the melody to. After I had seen Splash for the umpteenth time I had to scour the internet looking for what I much later discoverd was a piece of music taken from Chopin’s Piano concerto no.1 in E minor, op.11, Mov. 2, imagine trying to find that. Regardless, to this day when I hear that tinkling of a music box sound that evolves into a string piece playing Chopin’s rendition I’m immediately taken back to how moved I was the very first time I heard it played in the movie with Tom Hanks and Daryl Hannah, hand in hand in the streets of New York at the dead of night watching the string quartet buskers. I was five years old the first time I saw that movie and that moment stayed with me.

Casablanca Film Poster
Casablanca Film Poster

Soft musical sounds can be the subtle unsung hero that helps deliver a punch to a well known speech or line. Take for instance one of the many quotes lines from again the incomparable film Casablanca. Ever notice the music swirling companionably in the background, when Rick (Humphrey Bogart) begins his heart felt speech to Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman), at the end of the movie, that ends with “here’s looking at you kid”? It leaves you with a sigh or a tear in your eye, but always remember that moment.

I just had to find that scene for this post.

Music in Film is the magic that lets the film have a voice, it transcends the visual and auditory movie picture experience becoming an entity all on its own, allowing us to feel the film.There is not many things as comparable as getting lost in a film, connecting with the characters on screen,  or relating to the story. But when good music composition is added to that film, the heart clenches, the mind lost to the delusion, allowing you to completely immerse yourself in the heart of the story. The music becomes the blood of the the film, breathing meaning and depth into the film, and to me, is the most magical element of filmmaking.


Happy Dreaming!


4 thoughts on “The Magic of Music in Film

  1. (I found your blog via the WP Community Pool. You asked me to pop over, so here I am! I’ve got nothing to tell you, advice wise, other than to please keep writing.)

    It really is amazing how easily music takes you back and, like they said in the movie, make a normal scene special. I have a thing for listening to An American in Paris anytime I need to make myself push through a boring work task. The hustle/bustle of the music pushes me forward and makes me smile, all at the same time.


  2. I love your blog. Great writing and great topic. I totally agree with you, music is a very pivotal part of great film making. The music is what moves you and stirs your emotions. Thanks for sharing.


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