Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Ain't No Mountain High Enough

Ain't No Mountain High Enough

Hunter Pallasch

The winning play for the T.C. Williams Titans in the championship game spotlighted Rev, the character that brought music and soul to the team.  The movie Remember the Titans is based on a true story from 1971, when a high school was forced to integrate.  The local high school football team’s success unites the team and the city.  However, the team goes through many internal conflicts that flirt with becoming a disaster. The progression of two key songs sung by the characters show the Titans ability to look beyond race and overcome these conflicts to become one unit.
On the bus ride to fall camp a few of the black players start to sing the song “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Marvin Gaye.  However they are quickly shut down by their teammates.  The tension of high testosterone males being on an integrated bus for probably the first time in their life is sharpened by this cut off.  Even though the song is not sung for long, it is a prelude to the cohesion the team will have.  Fast forward to the end of camp in the locker room.  All the players are having a good time joking around, when Allen, a tall and lanky white kid, turns on “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and starts dancing like the awkward kid he is.  This scene alone is the first sign that the team has overcome their differences.  Because of their newfound cohesion, the Titans will experience that there is “no mountain high enough” or “valley low enough” that can pull them apart.  It gives the newly formed bond credibility to being true and long lasting.  To even further the reputation of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” the song is played as the final credits are playing.  These credits are unique in that it tells the rest of the story for each of the characters.  It represents that even beyond their playing days they are going to be together forever.  Even more importantly it lets the viewer leave happy.  The final scene (spoiler alert) is a funeral.  Playing such an important song to the team’s brotherhood at the end of the movie changes the emotions of viewer and their positive perception of the story.
The other critical song to the movie is “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” by Steam. Like the first song I discussed, “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” is played multiple times with different moods for each.  The first time it is played is on the bus ride back from fall camp.  The song is very upbeat and represents the team coming together. A complete 180 from the ride to fall camp, the song lyrics are indicative of the team saying “goodbye” to their past.  They have moved on from fighting and from a brutal fall camp.  What is also unique about this scene is the players are singing the song unlike the traditional use of the original artist.  The player choir adds to the effect the song has for establishing a credible bond that was formed at camp.  Now contrast that to the end of the movie.  “The final scene of a movie is often the most important. Because its privileged position, it can represent the filmmaker’s summing up of the significance of the previous scenes” (Kurosawa 221).  The camera pans through the crowd of football players all dressed in black suits.  Players and family are humming the tune of “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” at the star player’s funeral.  A song that was once so positive has become a tearjerker.  The slower speed of the song contributed to the somberness of the funeral as opposed to a happy bus ride.  For a funeral scene it only makes sense to play a sad song that wishes someone a good bye.  Even though I mentioned the following credits and accompanying music allows the audience to leave happy, this final scene shows the respect everyone has for the team and how far they had come.
The soul of the Titans is driven by their music.  The strongest appeals of the soundtrack are manipulation of emotion and adding credibility to the actions of the movie. In addition song lyrics and tone just logically fit in with the situations.  Their spirit at each point in the movie is represented by the song selection.  Even though each song is played multiple times, each time it creates a distinct and different emotion for the viewer.  However, what I found most impressive about each song is that even though the scenes and emotions changed, the meaning of the lyrics always fit.  The selections just made sense.  The idea of choosing each song for two different situations is very risky but because the lyrics can be applied multiple ways it worked well.  Gabriel Yared, an established film composer said, “When I write music for film, I try to connect with its spirit rather than working shot by shot” (Music and Mood).  Even though the soundtrack for Remember the Titans was not an original score it beautifully connects the spirit of the entire movie. I am a huge fan and give it 5/5 pickles.


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