O Brother Where Art Thou
Film would be nothing music. Ginnaetti writes that “Music can serve as a kind of overture to suggest the mood or spirit of the film as a whole” (Giannetti 213). Music can tap into an audience’s emotion (pathos) but also can affect our perceptions of the particular scene (ethos). One of my favorite examples is a scene pulled from the classic George Clooney film: O’brother Where art Thou. While this film is not a musical, music plays a huge role in advancing the plot and creating character development.
The iconic song is “(I am a ) Man of Constant Sorrow” which is a traditional tune that has a country/bluegrass feel to it. This not only fits well with the characters, as they are all backcountry southerners, but also somehow matches what is being seen on screen. When I hear the song, I can just imagine old time, sepia tinted film reels, chronicling the slapstick adventures of down on their luck rascals. Not only this song, but all the background music is folk tinged traditional country bluegrass that just really helps set a mood for the time period and mood of the film. It is upbeat, yet simple; perfect music to match the characters and the adventure that they go on. The lyrics clearly reflects the clash of upbeat music to sad lyrics, and this parallel the story, for it is at heart a comedy, but has a serious side (as it is based on Homers Odyssey).
However, the most interesting scene that utilizes music to its fullest ability is no doubt a scene where our heroes are being seduced by sirens. the men come across 2 women bathing in the stream and singing “Didn’t leave nobody but the baby”. This piece of music is performed by Alison Krauss and has a haunting country feel to it. Because of Krauss’s recognizable performance style, the accompanying ethos of gives the audience an immediate sense that something is out of sorts. The lyrcics and melodys themselves are hypnotizing and when sung in the tight, acapella harmonies of the 3 sirens creates a soothing and peaceful mood. However, the interesting part about this scene is that to the audience, it is clear that these women are here to seduce the protagonists and are up to no good. Anyone that sings “Come and lay your bomes on the alabaster stones” strikes me as someone that you’d want to give some space, but what do I know. Our heroes are caught in the music spell of the sirens, lacking the perspective of the audience. Lunsford describes “We all make decisions… based on our feelings “(Lunsford 30) and our feelings (pathos) are so easily manipulated by just the right music choice. This particular scene, I believe, deserves 3 tickets because of the instrumental role that the music plays (no pun intended). The music itself moves the plot along, creates tension between characters (therefore fostering character development), and gives the audience mixed feelings. It’s these mixed feelings of soothing calm and building creepy suspense that earn this scene its 3 tickets.
The use of music in this film, and particularly in the scene with the sirens, adds dimension and emotion to the film O’Brother Where Art Thou and creates a truly awesome soundtrack to go with it.