Friday, 6 July 2012

Willem Dafoe's iPod in The Hunter

Today sees the release of Daniel Nettheim's The Hunter. The film is a vehicle for Willem Dafoe, who plays a mercenary, Martin David, contracted to do a job in the Tasmanian outback.

A familiar sub genre of the right-of-passage movie, the hard-bitten professional David uncovers his deep-buried humanity as the film progresses. This is represented by the music that he plays on his iPod, which is all classical music, helped on its way with a sudden blast of Bruce Springsteen (I'm On Fire). It is particularly of note that the three 'operatic' extracts have pastoral texts, i.e. they are songs about the landscape and its wildlife, which, one might reasonably argue, is the main character of the film.

To begin with, we find David in his hotel, listening to Antonín Dvořák's Song To The Moon, from the composer's most famous opera Rusalka:

In the song, the eponymous protagonist Rusalka, who is a water sprite living in the wood, asks the moon to tell a human Prince of her love for him.

After David has taken the contract we get the second extract of music. Ombra mai fu, from the opera Serse, or Xerxes, is the most famous aria from Handel's entire operatic output. Again the chief character sings, this time directly to a tree about the shade it provides him.

Finally - of the three solo vocal excerpts - is the exotic Chant d'Auvergne, Bailero, by Joseph Canteloube. This is not from an opera but part of a set of folksong arrangements. Bailero is the best known and is in the form of a dialogue with a shepherd across a valley.

Later, after The Boss has forced its way into the party via a needle left on a record, David appropriates the sound system on which it was playing to broadcast the opening of Vivaldi's Gloria. This is a popular, bouncy piece of music, if rather bland, a sort of MOR classic of classical music. As in the film though, kids love it.

Finally, this scene is followed straight away by Vivaldi. After the churchy words of the Gloria we are back in pastoral territory with a movement (Largo) from the composer's The Four Seasons suite for orchestra and solo violin. Appropriately enough it's from Winter - and that plink-plink effect you can hear in the orchestra? Well that's supposed to be water dripping from icicles as they thaw. A bit like the thawing heart of a trained killer, see?

Please note that the performers in these clips are not necessarily the performers in the excerpts used in the film.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this info. Loved the film. Intrigued by the musical choices. Like your interpretations.

Anonymous said...

Thank very much for your posting I can see that you have a great knowledge over classical music, I wish I had such an education. Once more thank you for this beautiful expositition.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for enllightening me, I can enjoy ths music daily now that I know what it is!

Kyle Allen said...

so thankful for this great post!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, great post. Just saw the film and had a very positive surprise, it's very special

Andrew said...

It's lovely to read your musical analysis of the film. I was the Music Supervisor on "The Hunter" and it was a wonderful experience for me creatively.

Raico Rosenberg said...

Great explanation!
Does anyone know the brand of trousers he was wearing? I'm trying to find them! Thanks in advance!!

Unknown said...

Bailero! I have heard that piece a million times, and just couldn't place it while watching the movie on Amazon.

Thanks for the reminder.