As regular readers of my blog have no doubt gathered, I adore music and it often forms the basis of my inspiration for my writing. Classical music is a particular favourite – when a song has no lyrics, it frees my mind to imagine the accompanying words; and of course it’s so easy to put on in the background when I’m writing.
I have long admired the work of the 19th-century German composer Ludwig van Beethoven – can there be any more moving piece for a romantic such as me than the ‘Moonlight Sonata’? So when I saw, in 1994, that a film had been released concerning Beethoven’s life, I was keen to see it. And when I did – oh, how I loved it!
The film is something of a detective story. Following Beethoven’s death, his secretary attempts to uncover the identity of the ‘Immortal Beloved’, the love of his life, whom he finds mentioned in Beethoven’s papers. The mystery set up in the film is in fact based on truth. Scholars have long discussed who the mystery woman could be, and though the film’s writer and director insisted that the woman he identified as Beethoven’s lover in the film is the rightful Immortal Beloved, the claim remains disputed to this day. Such a tragic and romantic story – imagine loving someone that much, but keeping it a secret!
Gary Oldman is marvellous as the tortured genius; the ‘Ode to Joy’ scene always has me sitting upright in my chair, captivated. But it is the soundtrack that most enthralls me – all of Beethoven’s powerful works laid together to complement an emotionally affective narrative.
I highly recommend the film if you love classical music and period drama and a romance story. But keep some tissues close to hand!
I defy any romantic to watch this film and not love it! In my list of favourite films, it’s right near the top. I love the colours (of course, released in 1939, it was one of the first films shot in colour), the music, the characters, the vivid settings – the heartbreaking and passionate story. It has all the ingredients for compelling romance: naivety, intrigue, power, adversity, attraction, love. And the actors excel in their roles – this was the film that cemented Vivien Leigh’s career, and it is hard now to imagine anyone else playing the part. And Clarke Gable – what a male protagonist! When I first saw this film as a young girl, I fell promptly in love with Rhett Butler, as I’m sure did many female viewers.
I have always been fascinated by the history of America – it’s such a young country relative to many others in the world, and yet so much has taken place. I read the book on which Gone with the Wind is based, by Margaret Mitchell, and found it easy to see why this story had captured the imagination of a generation and secured Mitchell the Pulitzer Prize. Beneath the romance is a vivid portrayal of the civil war era – not realistic for some, who have criticised the film’s racial stereotyping – but certainly groundbreaking for its time.
If I have one reservation about the film, one reason that keeps it from the top spot of my list of favourite films, it is the ending. I love a happy ending! Though Rhett’s final line, ‘Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn’, echoes through the decades as a fabulous cinematic climax, whenever I watch it I feel just a little frustration that we don’t see Scarlett and Rhett together. Of course, I understand that the film would be weaker for a happy-ever-after ending, but I can’t help longing for it. Perhaps some day a film studio will make a sequel, and my wish will come true at last…
I love music, and I love films in which music plays an integral role.
Have you seen Legend of 1900? If not, I wholeheartedly recommend you do so (I understand it’s available in DVD format for a very reasonable price online). This is a life-affirming, heart-warming, touching tale told with reverence, a really romantic and magical film. One to watch when you have the house to yourself one evening, curled up with a hot chocolate or a glass of wine.
Legend of 1900 has a beautiful, award-winning soundtrack – especially if you like jazz, as I do. The film, set in the early 20th century, follows the story of an orphan, called 1900, who has grown up aboard a ship. It soon becomes clear he has musical ability in abundance, and his piano playing, effortlessly tapping into the emerging jazz scene, draws widespread attention. The film, made in 1998, stars Tim Roth at his absolute best and is inspired by a dramatic monologue written by Italian director, performer and writer Alessandro Baricco called La leggenda del pianista sull’oceano (The Legend of the Pianist on the Ocean). If you like the film, I also recommend Baricco’s writing.
Another film that is similarly touching and feel-good is August Rush, a more recent film (2007) that focuses on another musical protégé, a young boy who has been separated from his mother and father. The music in the film is so moving (one to watch with the volume up high) and the ending, the climax of the film and the music, takes my breath away. It has such an affirming, positive ending, and the final words, ‘The music is all around us, all you have to do is listen’, echoed for me long after I watched the final credits.
Films like this are inspiration for me when writing. In a novel I always bring music in somewhere – in Burning Embers, the nightclub that Rafe owns is the scene for a sensual, atmospheric dance performance that really sets the mood.
I would like to tell you that I, too, can play the music I so admire. Sadly, though I took piano lessons for seven years as a child with an old Russian old lady who had been my mother’s teacher, I hated every minute of it. I am a writer at heart.
Favourite films: Out of Africa
Out of Africa is one of my favourite films – I’ve watched it at least fifteen times to date, and it never fails to move me. The film is set earlier in the twentieth century than Burning Embers, but the breathtaking settings (which include Mombasa, where Burning Embers is set) and the wonderful romance between Karen and Denys were certainly in my mind as I wrote.
But as much as I love to watch the film – tissues at the ready – I could not deliver such a sad ending to a romance as depicted in this film. Denys cannot be tamed; he is as wild as his Africa, and there is no future for the lovers. In Burning Embers, Rafe, a womaniser, provides a similar challenge for Coral to tame, but in my story love wins through. I’m an old-fashioned romantic at heart, and always look for a happy-ever-after.
I have always been a great fan of Robert Redford. He is a wonderful actor, and he’s also very handsome. His rugged looks are hard to resist, and something in his face, in his eyes, denotes a strength of character.