chapter  27
8 Pages

Human tragedy as reflected in film music.

In the extensive cinema output of Shostakovich, the music for King Lear appears to be unique. Here for the first time, obeying the director's wish, the composer does not create a developed programme-musical conception resembling a symphony or an orchestral suite: he restores the main purpose of music - that of being art. The theme of art becomes the theme of truth and, according to the director's design, it' does not accompany the sequences but transforms them'3. The sad melody of the Fool's fife which frames the picture, and his caustic songs, full of sarcasm, sound like the voice of Conscience which insistently tries to get to people through silence locked in fear, through the howling of the wind, the clanging of arms, the web of lies and shamelessness, the cries and groans of the dying. The Fool's songs, like Brecht's Songs, reveal the hidden and evil designs of false friends and flatterers. There is something here akin to a philosophic parable. At the same time the piccolo E flat clarinet melody of the fife is astonishingly simple and artless, like a folk tune. It combines lament with dancing lyrical scherzo, sorrow with a lucidity which leaves hope for purification through suffering, the possibility that the king may understand the real values of life. Unfortunately this comes too late for the octogenarian Lear.