Sunday, 22 July 2012

The Dark Knight's Pavane

It's the Dark Knight Rises weekend. There'll be plenty to say about it (I've seen it now and have a less-than-awed impression of the film) but just a quick note about the small chink of pre-composed music that crept in between the comprehensive wallpaper of Hans Zimmer's score. In a scene at a masked ball, Wayne dances with Selina to French composer Maurice Ravel's Pavane pour une infante défunte - or Pavane for a Dead Princess, surprisingly elegiac music for a film whose title suggests resurrection. Perhaps this conflict is symptomatic of the turbulence within the film, symptomatic of 'the coming storm' of which Selina speaks as she dances. Here is the orchestrated version as in the one in the film.

UPDATE: I've now taken the opportunity of seeing the film a second time. Understandably blind-sided by this curious but apposite use of Ravel I overlooked the excerpt of a Strauss waltz that precedes it at the ball.

Of course, it comes as no surprise to find Kubrick acolyte Christopher Nolan using the music of Johann Strauss in one of his films - Kubrick is single-handedly responsible for the cultural rehabilitation of Strauss through his use of The Blue Danube waltz in 2001: A Space Odyssey. The use of a Strauss waltz has no further symbolism in this situation, operating as much as a trope of the society dance as any other familiar symbol in genre film. Though there is, incredibly, no information in the closing credits about the title of the waltz or its performers, unlike the Ravel (performed by the Minnesota Orchestra under Stanislaw Skrowaczewski) I believe it is the Wine, Women and Song waltz Op. 333. See if you agree:

UPDATE 2: A well-informed friend has confirmed that this is indeed the waltz that Christopher Nolan uses in his film. Of course, this makes a great deal of sense, given that Bruce Wayne's appearance at the ball is partly by virtue of Alfred's instigation. The butler urges his charge to get back out into the world in order to try to start living life once more, the philosophical kernel of the adage of the title of the waltz.

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