The Music

Peter Jackson: With this movie, probably more than any other I've done, the camera moves were integral to the scriptwriting. I'll tell you where that came from: the music. We read very early in our research that Pauline and Juliet were both obsessed with Mario Lanza. Neither of us was familiar with his music, so we went out and got some of his records, and before we started writing we played through them and came across several songs that we really liked. One of the very first ones we heard was "The Donkey Serenade".

Fran Walsh: Well, we knew that was important to them because Pauline had named one of her novels "The Donkey Serenade."

PJ: When we heard it, just the life and vitality in the song immediately indicated Steadicam. [laughs] It immediately told you you had to have a moving camera. We chose all the songs that were in the movie, and, in the case of "The Donkey Serenade," wrote scenes around them. I found it a great visual tool. It's never happened before in anything I've done - I mean, I've never had the music in advance. We had these songs playing while we were working to get ourselves psyched up to write a scene. At the same time, the music helped me visualise, so that visualisation ended up going down on the page. Of course, once you actually arrive on the set, and you have the actors and the camera people there, things can change. I don't regard anything that's written into a script in terms of a camera direction as being locked in stone.

Peter Dasent wrote the original score; in the second half of the film, particularly, Dasent's score builds tension and a tremendous sense of momentum.

The Songs and their significance

  "Just a Closer Walk with Thee," a traditional hymn sung by a girls' choir of 100 voices.

Ø  the framing reference to religion is established; the lyric foreshadows Pauline and Juliet's association, emphasizing a strong element of longing:

Just a closer walk with Thee,

Grant it, Jesus, is my plea,

Daily walking close to Thee,

Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.

I am weak but Thou art strong.

Jesus, keep me from all wrong.

I'll be satisfied as long

As I walk, let me walk close to Thee.

  It introduces into the film several key themes that will reappear. However, the hymn was not one of the hymns that would have been sung by the students of CGHS in 1952 (according to former students of the school), so its choice is thematic rather than for authenticity.

  It forms a symmetrical pair with the closing song; both mention 'walking together,' as a literal image of a spiritual concept, in their lyrics.

  although it is a hymn, sung to Jesus, the words could be seen also as reflecting the sort of relationship Pauline developed with Juliet; the second verse, which she joins in after a scowl from the head, could be seen as a challenge or even a threat.

At the end of the film, we are reminded of all these things through the supremely ironic closing song, “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. Consistent with the circular 'wrap-around' timeline of the film, the closing number echoes the opening hymn, the plea for a "closer walk". The closing song is an almost perfect response - a prayer made, and a prayer answered – except for what has just happened.

the Mario Lanza songs

  used as an indicator of Pauline's emotions,

  her initial fascination with Juliet: "Be My Love"

  their friendship grows and develops: “The Donkey Serenade", from the 1940's musical Firefly

  her dawning sexuality in her misguided night with John-the-lodger: "Finiculi, Finicula"

  J’s and P’s eventual delirious, romantic consummation: "The Loveliest Night of the Year".

  "You'll Never Walk Alone" - over the end credits - provides a powerful backdrop - its spiritual tone concluding the religious thread – and a particularly ironic pathos after the desolation of the final scenes.

Ø  it forms a symmetric counterpart to the film's opening hymn, reinforced in the key, scoreless, 'ship' scenes.

Ø  we have just been told that the girls’ release from prison was dependent on their never seeing each other again

Ø  or maybe it is Honora’s bequest to the girls

Ø  it comes from Carousel (1945), by Rogers and Hammerstein. The song is sung by the ghost of Billy Bigelow when he finally accepts that his beloved wife, Julie – a name Pauline gives to Juliet - has managed to rebuild her life without him. Although Julie reveres his memory, she is much better off without his disruptive presence.

When you walk through a storm

Hold your head up high

And don't be afraid of the dark.

At the end of the storm is a golden sky

And the sweet silver song of a lark.

Walk on through the wind,

Walk on through the rain,

Tho' your dreams be tossed and blown,

Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart

And you'll never walk alone,

You'll never walk alone!

the Opera numbers

The musical shift to opera in the second half of the film suggests dramatic inevitability. The light-hearted or melodramatic romance of Mario Lanza's "pop opera" gives way to a more sombre, powerful and genuine emotional tone in the second half of the film. And the clues from the filmmakers contained in the music become more subtle and possibly more significant because of their disguise.

  When Honora threatens to keep Pauline from Juliet, in despair, Pauline contemplates suicide. During these key scenes, Cavaradossi laments his own imprisonment and impending death, on Pauline's phonograph, from Puccini's opera Tosca: "My dream of love is now destroyed forever, my hour is fleeting and I must die despairing!"

Ø  In a striking parallel with the film, Tosca ends with Cavaradossi lingering in prison as his lover Tosca murders Scarpia to set him free, only to have her plan backfire when Cavaradossi is nevertheless executed. This prompts Tosca's own suicide.

E lucevan le stele... / And the stars shone brightly...
O! dolce braci, / Oh fond embrace,
o languide carezze / oh languorous caress
Mentr'io fremente / My heart was trembling
La belle forme / Enraptured by the wonder
disciogliea dai veli! / of her glorious beauty!
Svani per sempre / My dream of love
il sogno mio d'amore, / is now destroyed forever,
L'ora e fuggita, / My hour is fleeting,
E muoio disperato! / And I must die despairing!
E muoio disperato! / And I must die despairing!
E non ho amato! / How cruel is Death!
Mai tanto la vita, / Ah, life was never sweeter,
tanto la vita!" / never sweeter!"

[Tosca, Giacomo Puccini, English Translation, Joseph Machlis]

  If the association between Cavaradossi and Pauline is taken literally, this aria suggests a desperate romantic attachment between Pauline and Juliet, the tragic object of her desire.

  The headlong rush of the film's narrative is ruptured at a critical point by Juliet's poignant a capella rendering of Puccini's "Sono andati?" from La Bohème (sung by Kate Winslet).

Ø  Juliet has agreed to help Pauline murder Honora and there is a sense of inevitability introduced by this aria, as if the girls have finally given up all thoughts of fighting their destiny.

Ø  this sense of pre-determination continues in a quiet, chilling way for the rest of the film.

Ø  Juliet's singing begins off-screen behind a close-up of Pauline, which fades into a split-screen image with Juliet, followed by a very slow dissolve of Pauline.

Ø  This sustains the dynamic that the narrative remains from Pauline's point-of-view, and that she is imagining Juliet as a tragic-romantic heroine, singing to her.

Ø  In the opera La Bohème, the declaration of love is sung by the tubercular Mimi (another parallel with Juliet) to Rodolpho, knowing she is near the brink of death:

Sono andati? / Have they gone?
Fingevo di dormire / I pretended to be asleep
Percho volli / Because I wanted
con te sola restare / to be alone with you
Ho tante cose / I've so many things to tell you
che ti voglio dire
O una sola ma grande como il mare / Or one thing, as huge as the sea
Como il mare, profunda ed infinita / Deep and infinite as the sea
Sei il mio amor / I love you -
- e tutta la mia vita. / you're all my life.

[Giacomo Puccini, La Bohème, English translation, William Weaver]

  Puccini's serene "Humming Chorus" from Madame Butterfly informs the final tragic scene.

Ø  "The Humming Chorus" occurs late in the third act of Madame Butterfly, as Butterfly waits up through the night, alone, anticipating the next day to bring romantic fulfilment. Instead it brings her only bitterness, and death.

Ø  The tone continues the peaceful resignation of Juliet's aria.

Ø  Linking "The Humming Chorus" to the premonition of violent and bloody murder is ironic, creating an almost intolerable heightening of anticipation, dread and suspense.

Ø  The piece begins quietly, as the girls pause for a "last supper" with Honora in the Victoria Park teashop, and continues as they accompany her – in slow motion - down the muddy path, almost floating, serene and dreamlike.

Ø  The music ends, there is a brief silence with songbird – and the girls tearfully bludgeon Honora to her death.