Friday Film (9)

Time is short this week, too — yes, I know: it’s like I’m never free to write 2100 words in a rush on a Friday evening any more — but I do have some pertinent clips for you and your ears to examine.

As you’ll probably have guessed, these clips follow in the footsteps of the previous several postings in this series by being examples of the cinematic ‘set-piece’ that is the decisive hero-villain fight with bladed weapons. Yes, you’re probably a bit sick of all this by now — especially if you haven’t been paying due attention to what is (and occasionally isn’t) happening on the soundtrack. But if you are thinking that my decision to focus on the highly unified and constrained collection of set-pieces involving swords, rapiers, daggers and suchlike, these being deployed in climactic one-to-one duels to the death, just remember: I could very easily have focused on roller-blade dance numbers — and where would you be then…?

Here are three filmed versions of what is probably the most famous and most dramatically charged bit of sword-play in our entire dramatic history — never (so far as I know!) accompanied musically with split-second precision until the arrival of sound cinema made such a thing easily possible…

As you’ll notice, we have deepened as well as widened our original remit: this is not simply a composer ‘scoring a fight’ between two antagonists, but rather a composer accompanying a multi-layered scene within which a fight is embedded. As a result, we see a slightly different relationship between drama and action — and therefore a modified relation between action and music… Yes, we can talk about it later.

Meanwhile, here are our three sequences. Before you watch, let me remind everyone that Hamlet’s opponent in this fight has a weapon whose point is not only unbated, but also dipped in poison. Nor is this the only poison being deployed within the scene…

Hamlet (1948). Music by William Walton

 

Gamlet (1964). Music by Dmitri Shostakovich.

 

Hamlet (1996). Music by — oh, who cares…?

MD

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