Many surprises were in store when I watched the movies Mission Impossible 5: Rogue Nation
and Madame Bovary .
It was definitely unexpected that MI5 contained a decent amount of classical (18th century) and Romantic (19th century) music! The familiar opening theme of Mozart’s Le Nozze de Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro) was played during a dramatic scene, and a lengthy excerpt from the well-known aria ‘Nessum Dorma’ (from the opera Turandot by Puccini) performed at the Vienna State Opera House was used in a crucial scene!
The Marriage of Figaro is a comic opera written in the 18th century,but used to good effect in this 21st century action movie. A masterwork by Mozart, the music of The Marriage of Figaro is colourful and witty, conveying a feeling of ease and spontaneity, passionate and intense. This is well-coordinated with the movie’s actions where the characters execute nifty moves with ease and humour and also enhances the dramatic moments.
Turandot, one of the most popular and beloved operas from the 19th century, is a masterpiece of characterisation, sentiment and craftsmanship. All these are aptly reflected in the excitement of the climatic scene. The Aria requires exceptional vocal skills, just as the characters in the movie would require superb mastery in accomplishing their task. Just as Puccini’s genius for orchestration enabled him to hold the attention of an audience with a few notes, the use of the high A (climatic note) marked in a red circle is juxtaposed to great effect. Watching the thrilling actions to this music goes up a notch in making the audience tremble with excitement and the heartbeats swell and throb with the crescendo of the musical notes.
Madame Bovary is based on Gustav Flaubert’s 17th century novel, so the use of Mozart’s Eine Kleine Natchmusik (A Little Night Music or Serenade) and Romantic music by Chopin and Schumann (both 19th century composers) is not as great a surprise.
Mozart’s Serenade is appropriate in depicting a tranquil and idyllic picture of wilderness in the countryside, as it is one of the best-known pieces of music with a lovely melody.
Chopin’s music is legendary in its romanticism, lyrical beauty and deeply evocative quality.
That one of his best and most hauntingly beautiful pieces, Nocturne in C Minor Op 18 No 1 (also featured in an earlier movie ‘The Pianist’) is used to reflect the protagonist’s emotions when she played it couldn’t be more apt. She was seen playing it mechanically, devoid of any feeling or expression, mirroring her feelings of listlessness and emptiness.
Schumann’s pleasant character piece ‘About Foreign Lands and People’ (from Scenes of Childhood)
became lifeless, stiff and wooden in her boring rendition. Instead of ‘singing with her fingers’, she played the notes just one after another, just like how her ‘days come’ always the same’ filled with nothing but despair’.
In retrospect, I would say that I would not have enjoyed as much a thriller-action movie like MI5 if not for the music. Even watching Madame Bovary was a better-than-expected experience because I went with the intention of finding out about the ‘most scandalous French novel’.