We’ve all heard about it, and many have seen it – this Oscar-winning film. The scene that struck me was the one pictured left, towards the end. It’s a climactic scene, but it was the music that gripped me – an excerpt from Beethoven’s 7th Symphony, second movement, then some of the second movement of Beethoven’s 5th piano concerto.
And I found myself wondering – why this music? Why Beethoven, a German composer, in such an English film set around the time of WW II; would Elgar be more appropriate?
Probably not; the film is not all Pomp and Circumstance, and such a strongly nationalistic, instantly recognizable musical flavour could weaken the story’s broader remit, eclipsing the many personal themes that weave through the film against the backdrop of the oncoming global conflict.
In any case, it is well known that the opening of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony with its Morse code allusion to ‘V’ became ‘V for Victory’ for the Allies, so Beethoven’s music was in use during that period, ironically, for Allied morale-building.
The music works well in the scene, with the sombre tread of the the symphony giving way to the sublime beauty of the concerto. There’s probably no deep underlying reason for the choice; perhaps just a need for a soundtrack that matches the solemnity of the occasion.
And Beethoven crossed out his Symphony No 3’s dedication to Napoleon when Napoleon declared himself Emperor; perhaps Beethoven’s voice is the one to choose when facing those who would rule the world, in any century.