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A. Komarova

Semantic functions of quotes from R. Wagner’s music in cinema: from myth to deconstruction

The music by R. Wagner is a record holder for citation in the cinema of the 20th–21st centuries. The IMDb website lists over 1,500 films featuring his music. As a source of citation, directors most often turn to the “Ride of the Valkyries” from “Die Walküre”, the Wedding Chorus from “Lohengrin,” the Funeral March from “Gotterdammerung” and the Introduction from “Tristan and Isolde”. This article seeks to identify the stylistic features of his work that are invariably relevant for the film industry, to trace the formation and development of film clichés associated with it, and also to consider the director’s strategies for working with the semantics of quotation material. Wagner’s musical drama had a great influence on the art of cinema, which was reflected in the director’s aspirations to embody the universal creative concept of Gesamtkunstwerk, turning to the leitmotif system, the composer’s myth. Wagnerianism can be traced in the style and film language of individual composers and directors (L. von Trier, A. Sokurov, V. Herzog, G. Shore, J. Williams). In the 30s of the 20th century, the composer’s philosophical and aesthetic views were biased by Nazi propaganda, as a result of which a film cliché was assigned to it: Wagner’s music is a symbol of evil, war, death, Nazism. Directors of the second half of the 20th century, in attempts to demythologize images of evil, apply strategies of deconstruction and postmodern irony to the semantics of Wagnerian music. Other film clichés, regardless of genre and direction, represent the original composer’s semantics, for example, through images of “visuality” (S. Eisenstein), expressed in the motif of flight/jumping (“Ride of the Valkyries”), symbols-images of love, love/death (music of the Wedding choir in the wedding scenes, quotes from Tristan and Isolde).

Key words

film text, musical quote, R. Wagner, film cliché, musical semantics.

For citation

Komarova A. Semantic functions of quotes from R. Wagner’s music in cinema: from myth to deconstruction // South-Russian Musical Anthology. 2023. No. 3. Pp. 5-13.