Monday, April 13, 2015

A Tale of Two Requiems


Are you familiar with film director Terrence Malick? In 2011 he released The Tree of Life, a film that polarized viewers with his incorporation of enigmatic spiritual symbolism. Malick’s use of a compilation score including excerpts from Zbigniew Preisner’s Requiem for my friend and Hector Berlioz’s Requiem is significant to understanding underlying thematic elements of the film. A compilation score can be defined as a film score that uses various pre-composed works not originally composed for the film. Malick’s careful placement of each requiem depicts the dichotomy between physical and spiritual death and life inherent throughout the film, augmenting the symbolism to convey a message to viewers.

Zbigniew Preisner’s “Lacrimosa” from his Requiem for my friend occurs at the beginning of The Tree of Life during the creation sequence. Visually this scene depicts the formation of physical life while musically it depicts spiritual death. The translation of “Lacrimosa” cries out to God for mercy in anticipation of Judgment Day. You can watch this scene here:

Hector Berlioz’s Requiem occurs at the end of the film during a scene visually implying the physical death and spiritual life of the main character (Jack). The specific use of the “Agnus dei” from the Requiem is significant in that it musically conveys God’s forgiveness of sin and this theme of spiritual life. You can watch the eternity scene near the film’s ending here:

What do you think? Can you think of a film that uses a compilation score, allowing the music to imply a deeper meaning?