[Marxism] The Bondage of Bad Taste and the Bottom Line » CounterPunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names
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Fri Apr 4 13:33:15 MDT 2014
It is therefore a surprising and nearly fatal error on [Steve] McQueen’s
part to have Northup destroy his violin in a moment of hopelessness.
There is no sign of this in the book and it fundamentally contradicts
[Solomon] Northup’s own character. This overly dramatic, and utterly
unconvincing, act of destruction is pure Hollywood gimmickry, a Romantic
sort of exaggeration like that found infamously in E. T. A. Hoffmann’s
short story, Councilor Krespel, about a violin-wrecking nutcase. In
indulging in this kitschy nonsense, McQueen forfeits much of his effort
spent in incorporating Northup’s musical worldview into the movie as whole.
Such tomfoolery should have never made its way onto the screen. If any
violins should have been destroyed, it should have been those belonging
to the studio musicians employed to record Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack.
Rumor has it that the Hollywood heavyweight composer was brought in by
the film’s producers (of which McQueen was one of several) at the last
minute. Zimmer’s task was clearly to provide a salve for slavery’s lash
and the relentless on-screen sorrow. Zimmer cranked out the product he
gets the big bucks for: portentous prayers, foreboding shadows, and
earnest counterpoint that slowly bludgeon the viewer into never
forgetting he should be taking in the moral message. More important
still, Zimmer’s score softens the violence and dolor of the movie
itself: soundtrack sermonizing becomes a palliative for the harder
truths the film tries to get at.
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