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Mozart's music has been used to soundtrack numerous movies, from romantic comedy to action thrillers. We take a look at some of the best Mozart music in movies
Stanley Kurbrick’s always had an ear for marrying fantastic pieces of classical music to his films and his soundtrack to his final movie Eyes Wide Shut was no exception. Starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman as a married couple who find themselves out of their depth in an underground world of sex and violence, this a disturbing, sinister movie. The heavy atmosphere of Rex tremendae from Mozart's Requiem perfectly captures Bill’s (Cruise) despair and fear when he walks into the cafe and reads of the mysterious death of a young woman knowing that she died to save him.
Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal play friends who are determined to prove that men and women can have a platonic relationship in this romantic comedy that’s become synonymous with that lunch scene. In a soundtrack peppered with all-American favourites from the likes of Gershwin and Harry Connick junior Mozart’s String Quintet E Flat Major makes an unexpected, but very welcome appearance.
This comedy about a rich broker and a homeless man whose lives cross paths when they are unknowingly made part of a bet features Elmer Bernstein's Oscar-nominated score, as well as the source material that he wrote and arranged. Mozart actually opens this satirical movie with Bernstein’s arrangement of his overture to the Marriage of Figaro, an opera that Bernstein based a lot of his own score. Mozart once again crops up, in slightly less exuberant voice, with the second movement of the Jupiter Symphony.
This Ridley Scott directed science fiction film stars Sigourney Weaver as Warrant Officer Ripley who heads a crew on a deep space mining ship who find themselves stranded on a strange and distant planet. The world Scott creates is claustrophobic, eerie and tense, an atmosphere that Mozart’s spritely Eine Kleine Nachtmusik strikes a particularly refreshingly, if rather juxtaposed, chord in.
Weatherman Phil (Bill Murray) is reluctantly sent to cover a forecast story in Pennsylvania much to his very vocal frustration. Instead of waking to better things the next day, he finds himself trapped in the same 24-hours repeatedly. Phil uses it to his advantage by learning the piano, impressing his would-be love interest Rita (Andie MacDowell) with his version of Rachmaninoff ‘Rhapsody on a Theme by Paginini’. Not to be out done, Mozart makes an appearance when his Piano Sonata in C, K545, 1st movement plays when Phil first visits his piano teacher.
Mozart is a ubiquitous presence in this tale of love and loss set against the backdrop of the great plains of East Africa – he even gets named dropt several times. In one scene Denys Finch Hatton (played by Robert Redford) plays Mozart to a troop of baboons and says to Karen (Meryl Streep), his companion, “Think of it: never a man-made sound... and then Mozart!” The Oscar-winning soundtrack was largely written by John Barry, but also contained several other Mozart pieces including his clarinet concerto in A Major – who no doubt would have scooped a few awards himself if he’d been around today.
The emotional power of Mozart’s music was fully realised by director John Schlesinger in his film Sunday Bloody Sunday. This love-triangle with a twist film is the story of a Jewish doctor, Daniel Hirsh and a middle-aged woman, Alex Greville who are both having an affair with the same male artist. Schlesinger uses one of Mozart’s most brilliant works, the trio from Cosi fan tutte, several times throughout the film, including over the closing credits, to highlight the shared themes of the opera and the film - love, lust, fidelity and pain.
Mozart rubs shoulders with Right Said Fred on a soundtrack that is as lively and eccentric as the film it accompanies. Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau play the grumpy old men of the title who come to blows over their mutual love for their beautiful new neighbour, Ann Margret (Ariel Truax). The beauty of Mozart’s Haydn Quartet No. 14 in G Major encapsulates the more sensitive side of this tale of a geriatric love-triangle.
Jack Nicholson plays Robert Dupea, a once promising middle-class concert pianist who gave up tinkling the ivories along with the comforts of his well off family to work in the oil fields. Forced to return home to confront his cosy past, Dupea unexpectantly finds love with a concert pianist. The ‘five easy pieces’ of the title refer to piano works; along with Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 9 in E-flat major and his Fantasy in D minor we hear pieces by Chopin and Bach.
John Travolta plays an FBI agent with a personal grunge against super criminal Nicholas Cage in this action thriller. The lines between good and bad become rather blurred as Special Agent Sean Archer (Travolta), desperate for revenge against Cage’s bad guy Castor Troy, takes on the physical appearance of his enemy. Mozart’s emotional, beautiful aria ‘Ach, ich fühl's’ from the second act of the opera 'Die Zauberflöte' (The Magic Flute) is a sharp contrast to the violence and human ugliness that the film depicts, but perfectly expresses the pain and desperation of Travolta’s character.
This seminal French Nouvelle Vague Jean-Luc Godard directed film, A Bout De Souffle (Breathless) is the story of a love affair between Michel Poiccard and his American girlfriend, Patricia. Their relationship steps up a gear when Poiccard is forced to hide out at in Patricia’s flat after killing a policeman while stealing a car. Mozart makes an appearance in the film’s dramatic final scene with his clarinet concertos. Godard claims to have included Mozart’s pieces because he believed, wrongly, that this was Mozart’s final piece before he died and liked the drama this conjured up.
Daniel Day Lewis’ breakthrough role is the true story of Christy Brown, who, left paralysed by cerebral palsy, learns to write and paint with his left foot. Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte - Un'aura amorosa is a fittingly stirring, rousing accompaniment to a moving, but inspiring film.
This dark tale of a lawyer who finds himself under suspicion of the rape and murder of two young girls and subjected to a gruelling interrogation that sees his worst secrets exposed. Mozart’s Requiem, written when the composer was dying and left unfinished upon his death, strikes a fittingly melancholia to this dark, oppressive thriller.
This film within a film stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as Jack Slater, a famous action hero. His biggest fan, Danny Madigan is given a magical ticket for Slater’s latest film that transports Madigan into the action on screen into a now-too real world. Musical hero Mozart is on hand to add a burst of romance with his famous Overture from Marriage of Figaro.
This adaption of Amy Tan’s best-selling novel follows the fortunes of Chinese mothers and their Chinese-American daughters as they negotiate culture clashes and generational differences. Mozart’s pretty, animated Concerto for flute and harp in C does feature in the film, but he is also incorrectly credited by the narrator as the composer of Dvořák’s Humoresque when the piece is played during a piano recital.
You can’t have a film about a wedding without Mozart’s ‘Wedding March’ from Marriage of Figaro somewhere on the soundtrack. Ang Lee, who later went on to direct Brokeback Mountain, presided over this 1993 film about a couple who marry for a green card (the bride) while the groom is walking down the aisle in an attempt to hide his homosexuality from his parents. A chaotic a story as the Mozart’s opera the music came from.