Please, recommend films which are masterful in the “classical music juxtaposed with violence in cinema” arena?

Oh, but of course.

It must be said that Stanley Kubrick is the pioneer and undisputed master of this manner of soundtrack incongruence. It began with 2001:A Space Odyssey, and the iconic – if now not infamous – use of Strauss’ Also sprach Zarathustra in the opening sequence of the film, signifying the effective birth of humankind and creation (the use of An der schönen blauen Donau achieves a similar effect as we watch the spaceships floating benignly in the deep black pool of space following the monkey sequence). There’s an incredibly satisfying sense of irony to the use of classical music in cinema – particularly when coupled with violence -, and Roger Ebert’s review of the film states it rather wonderfully: “[Alex North’s score] would have been wrong for “2001″ because, like all scores, it attempts to underline the action – to give us emotional cues. The classical music chosen by Kubrick exists outside the action. It uplifts. It wants to be sublime; it brings a seriousness and transcendence to the visuals.”

Kubrick continued to utilise classical music in his films in curious incongruence to action (some of which I’ve listed below), and the pinnacle of which is surely A Clockwork Orange and ‘ultraviolence’. I could write an entire novel on the use of classical music in this film with alacrity, but the absolute brilliance of juxtaposing funereal Purcell and impassioned Beethoven over scenes of violence, brutality, and chaos cannot be overstated enough; the heavily symbolic scene in which Alex enters his room and plays the second movement of the old Ludwig van’s 9th is a beautiful – if not overly on-the-nose – illustration of the dichotomy of madness and perversion/sublimity and perfection (“Oh bliss ! Bliss and heaven !”) This juxtaposition continues in the use of Rossini’s La Gazza Ladra overture in two epochal sequences, and of course, Singing in the Rain, in which the dissonant joy of the music operates as a thematic extension of Alex’s (and indeed, our) psychological conditioning to ultraviolence. This theme is continued today splendidly by Michael Haneke who cinematically weds the music of ‘high’ culture to the threat of violence.

A Clockwork Orange set the precedent for the incongruous and often ironical use of classical music and opera over cinematic violence or implied violence*, and below are just a few notable films containing such sequences (I’m certain there are others I have forgotten):

  • The Silence of the Lambs (The Goldberg
  • The Godfather III (Cavalleria Rusticana)
  • Raging Bull (also Cavalleria Rusticana)
  • Platoon (Barber’s Adagio for Strings)
  • Apocalypse Now (prelude to Act II from Die Walküre,
    i.e., “Ride of the Valkyries”)
  • Hannibal (The Blue Danube waltz)
  • Misery (the 1st movement (adagio) from Piano Sonata No. 14 in C♯ minor “Quasi una fantasia”, i.e., Moonlight Sonata)
  • Boondock Saints (La bohème)
  • Funny Games (Cavalleria Rusticana again (thankfully NOT the intermezzo), as well as Atalanta, which cuts directly to heavy metal from John Zorn – brilliant)
  • The Untouchables (Pagliacci)
  • Se7en (Air on the G String)
  • Battle Royale (also Air on the G String)
  • Kingsman: The Secret Service

    (Pomp & Circumstance March No. 1, op. 39)

  • Nymphomaniac
    & Antichrist
    (Lascia ch’io pianga
    from Rinaldo)
  • Reservoir
    (Stuck in the Middle with You – not classical, but gets the point across)

*The concept of soundtrack incongruence has of course
broadened beyond merely scenes of violence, and often now places them in
context of highly emotional, as well as comedic film sequences (I will
forever be bitter towards
The Lone Ranger and the use of the William Tell overture).

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