BALKAN AS A METAPHOR IN THE FILM COMPOSITION OF GORAN BREGOVIC
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CHAPTER V METAPHOR:
Bregovic’s Soundtrack Conceptualisation for a foreign production
The final analysis uncovers Bregovic’s analogical approach to the soundtrack for a French production of Patrice Chereau’s Queen Margot.
August 1572 – France is torn apart in a bitter religious war between the Catholics and the Protestants. The country is still ruled by a Catholic family, wherein King Charles IX is at the throne, even if only as a figurehead. It is his ruthless mother, Catherina de Medici who really rules the country together with her favourite son, Anjou. The political power of the Protestants led by Henri de Navarre is constantly growing and the ruling Catholic family decides to reunite France through a marriage between Margot, King Charles’ sister and Catherine’s daughter and the Protestant Count de Navarre.
The marriage is obviously as artificial as is the peace between the two religious groups and, six days after the wedding, the infamous St Bartholomey’s Day massacre takes place in Paris, encouraged by Catherina de Medici. Thousands of Protestants are brutally slaughtered, but one of them La Mole is badly wounded and knocks on Margot’s door in a desperate attempt to escape. She takes him in and, for the first time in her life, she falls in love – with the enemy.
Margot and La Mole’s secret love affair during the Catholic-Protestant turmoil is as amazing as Henri de Navarre’s bold courage and desire to live even amongst the ruthless ruling Catholic family. While the Protestant leader manages to survive the dark and dangerous corners and corridors of Louvre, the decay of the royal family is sped up by their own doing: in her brutal attempt to poison Henri, Catherina de Medici poisons her own son – King Charles.
Henri manages to escape to Navarre and sends La Mole back to the Louvre to rescue Margot. Both La Mole and his Parisienne Catholic ally Coconass are captured and executed, despite Margot’s countless attempts to beg her dying brother Charles for their lives. With Charles’ death, his younger brother and Catherina’s favourite son, Anjou becomes the new king of France, while Margot escapes to Navarre only taking with her the head of her executed lover La Mole.
The main analytical tools are two tables that outline different research angles (see Appendices.) The soundtrack intricacies are uncovered in the constructed tables and related to both, Neyrinck’s framework and the “inward Sarajevan principle”, that exemplify the development of Bregovic’s career as an international film composer based on analogical compositional principles.
Neyrinck’s analytical framework is most applicable in this example where Bregovic collaborates with a French director, Patrice Chereau, and not with Kusturica. The metaphoric use of the Balkans, “the inward Sarajevan principle” and the functional use of ethnic music in soundtracks all come together in this example.
Neyrinck’s first point addresses the distinction between the use of traditional music and folk elements in original soundtrack composition. Once again Bregovic uses recycled “White Button” materials and folk elements in original compositions, with the exception of the traditional Dalmatian song, U te sam se zaljubia (“I’m in Love With You”), which is heard during the opening credits of the film.
The first piece of source music is Gloria, performed during the wedding scene (on the recording this track is entitled Le marriage according to the scene in which it features). This stylistic composition resembles a movement from a mass.
Rondinella and Ruda Neruda are the only other two compositions that appear as source music, both presumably heard by the characters in the moment of their performance. Rondinella is a secular composition, played at the wedding party in contrast with the Gloria, played during the church service in the marriage scene.
Ruda Neruda is quite similar to Rondinella in its compositional style and orchestration. Both works are light-hearted and scored for the period instruments. These qualities enable the sound to support the historical and the dramatic accuracy of the scene - setting.
In the case of Bregovic’s compositions for Queen Margot, traditional music is always a source of inspiration. Although the composer’s musical history alone clearly suggests these composition gestures, developing analyses reveal further conceptual intricacies of his stylistic choices.
The previous section addresses three pieces: Gloria, Rondinella and Ruda Neruda – all of which are categorised as source music. The fact that the characters presumably hear them in the moment of their performance immediately classifies them as compositions that also potentially support the historical setting of the film. These three compositions are also evocative of the places where and occasions for which they are performed.
Although Rondinella exhibits the use of the “quasi-Italianlanguage”, the overall soundtrack does not exploit language as a tool for geographic or historic accuracy. On the contrary, the actual use of language to identify the filmsetting can be very deceptive in Bregovic’s musical work as his language choices are of a more metaphorical nature.
Apart from these three compositions there is no other source music in the soundtrack, as all the remaining works are in the category of background music.
Margot’s character is fairly consistently supported through the predominant solo and ensemble use of female voices in all of the music that portrays her circumstances, regardless of their nature – romantic, political, familial, etc. Her representative compositions are Le matin, Margot and Elo Hi.
Despite the continuous variation in the size of the ensemble and the language of the text setting, the unification of “Margot’s music” is achieved through the familiarity of its sentiment and the linking musical motives that reappear throughout each piece.
The music always alludes to her character and its imaginary perception of the given circumstances regardless of the number of other characters that may feature in the scene and interact with Margot. Such conceptual patterning in music is successful because it complements the film’s dramaturgy and the placement of Margot’s character in the overall dramatic structure.
La chasse, the music for the hunting scene, is an adaptation of Bregovic’s old song Nocas je k’o lubenica pun mjesec iznad Bosne (The Moon Over Bosnia Tonight Is As Big and Round As a Watermelon) from “White Button’s” 1986 album “Spit and Sing My Yugoslavia.” The folkloric tendencies of Bregovic’s rock writing are easily transformed into the quasi-baroque arrangements. The song that would have fallen into the category of Bregovic’s “shepherdic rock” during the time when it was first written becomes a brief instrumental number backing the hunting scene. Strings replace the electric bass and the vocals are replaced by recorders creating a perfect hunting atmosphere. Sounds propel the dramatic setting of the scene, although we never really see it, and the viewer is aurally persuaded that the actual period instruments, such as hunting horns, may actually feature in this scene. Audiences are able to imaginatively create possible source music through successful background composition.
Queen Margot is not a tragic love story set in a turbulent historical period. Despite the similarities between their story lines, this is not the French equivalent of Romeo and Juliet set in 1572 that is musically enhanced through traditional music and folk elements. This narrative is rather, an intimately personified representation of the repercussions of the Saint Barthelemy’s Day massacre. Historical information is amplified through the familiarity of the exploited subject – romantic love.
Incidentally, this dramatic treatment of socio-historical information through personalised subjects is very familiar to any person of Bregovic’s origins. There has been virtually no more popular technique of documenting the circumstances of the ethnic war in the former Yugoslavia, and particularly in Bosnia and Herzegovina, than through the “mixed-marriage medium” (marriage between members of different ethnicities in the former Yugoslavia, particularly common to Bosnia and Herzegovina). So, “Margot’s music” is not necessarily only her musical analogy or merely a character’s running motive, for it conceptualises the character and her relationship to others and to the given dramatic circumstances.
Function III – conceptual principles of the theatrical conflict expressed through the metaphorical use of traditional music and folk elements in soundtrack writing
The complete soundtrack recording consists of fourteen compositions. The proposed analysis is developed and applied in the ten tracks that most clearly outline the discussed principles. It is also important to take into consideration that different variations and arrangements of the same piece frequently occur on soundtracks.
The opening chapter unravels Neyrinck’s framework for the analysis of conceptual proximity and conceptual distance that also suggests that “Occidentalism” presents the known or established and “Occidentalism” stands for the unknown. In order to apply this analysis to the Queen Margot soundtrack it is important to link the framework to the film’s characters and the depicted dramaturgy.
Queen Margot is a film that takes us through the battle for rulership in religiously-divided France. The Catholics are in power, ruled by the scheming and plotting Catherina de Medici who decides to give her daughter Margot’s hand in marriage to Henri, the Protestant count. This marriage would unite France and prevent the war.
In the very beginning, the story is brought to us from the court of the ruling Catholic family. The power and rulership together with the initial story-ground suggests the conceptual proximity. The Catholics become the “Occidentalists” and the persecuted Protestants are the “Orientalists”.
The main characters who represent different sides of the conceptual basis are Margot and La Mole. Margot is the princess and the queen-to-be, the central “Occidental” character and La Mole is a young Protestant man of noble birth who becomes her lover – the main “Oriental” character. Apart from those two there are several supporting characters, who can all be identified to one of the two conceptual categories.
Catherina de Medici and her three sons are all “Occidentalists”; coming from the same line as Margot herself. Henri of Navarre, Margot’s husband is, apart from La Mole the most important “Oriental” character.
How does this relate to the film soundtrack and, more importantly, to the use of traditional music and folk elements in film composition?
How does Neyrinck’s framework apply to Bregovic’s traditional musical choices in soundtrack composition?
The application of Neyrinck’s framework of conceptual proximity (“Occidentalism”) and conceptual distance (“Orientalism”) on the soundtrack suggests the following structure:
Bregovic has used traditional musical elements more explicitly to musically portray the “Oriental” characters. Although his use of such musical elements is fairly consistent throughout the entire score, there are some specific placements where these assist the compositional portrayal of the characters.
Bregovic musically translates the Protestants as “the unknown” or “the other” because they are portrayed this way in the film. The Protestants are presented as a mysterious force that is threatening the ruling Catholic French dynasty.
Instead of exploring the musical traditions of France, Bregovic’s musical analogies of the proposed concept are always heavily rooted in the traditional music of his origins. Bregovic musically follows the development of characters and conceptual bases from his home ground – the Balkan Peninsula and collaborates with artists from other cultures, such as the Israeli singer Ofra Haza. His use of Balkan music as a metaphor for the depicted dramatic conflict is as multi-faceted as are his ethnic origins.
The second table (see Appendices) lists the functions of traditional music and folk elements in the soundtrack. The presentation of the three functions demonstrates that the portrayal of “Orientalism” and “Occidentalism” in the soundtrack is the most dominant conceptual function of traditional music and folk elements. The order of tracks as presented in the table is a mixture of the chronological appearance of music and its conceptual function. Ten listed tracks are grouped into seven corresponding brackets.
The first listed track, U te sam se zaljubia (I’m in Love with You), is heard during the opening credits of the film. This is an arrangement of a traditional song from Dalmatia, a musical prelude to the idea of the “conceptual otherness”.
The romantic topic is musically identified at the very beginning through this love song, and its “Oriental” nature is portrayed through its traditional musical setting.The “unknown” or “the conceptually distant” is familiarised, to a certain degree through the romantic appeal of the portrayed emotion.
The second track, La Nuit, represents two aspects of the conceptual distance: “otherness” and “mystery”. It serves as background music in the scene of the Protestants’ arrival in Paris for Margot and Henri’s wedding. They arrive on “Occidental” ground and are perceived accordingly through musical analogies – their “Orientalism” is portrayed in the mysteriously soft sounds of traditional string instruments from the Balkans.
The third track in the table still follows the chronological order of music in the film. Le marriage is source music for the wedding scene. Both its dramatic and historic purposes in the film make this composition slightly more difficult to discuss on the conceptual level. A comparative study of Le marriage in relation to the other two stylistic pieces is the most informative approach to the analysis of its conceptual portrayal.
Gloria, one of the movements of the mass, accompanies the marriage scene. Although it completes certain stylistic requirements, further comparative analysis also uncovers the conceptual function of this work in relation to the other two stylistic pieces.
Both Rondinella and Ruda Neruda are, similarly to the wedding scene music, pieces with strong setting-establishment and historical-accuracy supporting function. With these factors taken into consideration it is obvious that Bregovic still gives these compositions a very strong traditional flavour. Creative application of these works in the relevant scenes grounds them in the “Oriental” conceptual basis and supports the growing impact of “otherness” in the overall development of the plot. Conceptual comparison of these stylistic compositions exposes the “Occidentalism” of the marriage scene music that is portrayed through its placement in the dramatic conflict and the created musical and conceptual metaphors.
La nuit de la Saint Barthelemy is the most conceptually complex composition. This is background music for the scene of St Bartholomey’s Day massacre in which the French Catholics slaughter thousands of Protestants within a few hours.
“Orientalism” is most transparent in this composition; the distance is portrayed through heavy use of vocal music with traditional references. Given that the voice is the first and most natural “human instrument” and a basic communication tool, it is quite easy to imagine that the musical analogy of “otherness” is possibly most explicitly presented through use of a completely different vocal aesthetic to that of the “Western Art Music” singing style.
The viewer is seduced into the world of “otherness” through music that is simultaneously somewhat confronting and emotionally rich and evocative. Rough, unpolished male voices become the screams of the slaughtered Protestants, the “unknown” is no longer mysterious, and everything is visually witnessed and musically supported on both dramatic and conceptual levels.
La chasse is a contrasting musical analogy to the usual “Occidental” portrayal so far since the hunting scene music exposes the courage and strength of the “Oriental” characters. King Charles is attacked by a wild boar while hunting with his friends. Although both of his brothers are with him, neither comes to his aid. Instead, his Protestant brother-in-law, Henri rescues him. The music is crucial in the establishment of the scene setting and it also conceptually empowers the “Oriental” characters, which is highly suitable for the dramatic conflict at this point in the film. The conceptual “otherness” is, at least momentarily, presented in a powerful position of equality and humanity. We are not watching the Protestants getting slaughtered or sneaking around trying to hide and survive, but rather we witness Henri de Navarre rescuing the Catholic King whose people have killed almost of the Protestant men. Not only is the mystery uncovered for its internal humanity, but the roles are turned both dramatically and musically in that the viewer witnesses enemies also existing within the same group, and the “other” is not necessarily dangerous.
Rondinella is a source composition for the scene of Margot and Henri’s wedding after-party. The name as well as the musical form of this composition suggests connections with the Rondo form. Rondo literally translates to a round form and the structure of the composition is cyclic, following the A-B-A form with a Coda.
This composition is the most curious artistic invention that incorporates tunes evocative of English folk songs, Balkan-flavoured percussion writing and most interestingly, some unusual self-devised form of Italian language, or more probably just something in the style of Italian. It seems that the Yugoslav vocal ensemble attempts improvising a language that is possibly based on their aural memories of Italian or on the Italian dialect from the regions on the former Yugoslav border.
Together with this most curious linguistic invention, it is important to mention the actual singing techniques and the performance style of this piece. The work consists of two sections: the sung verses and the improvised vocal sections in the style of the traditional singing from Herzegovina – ganganje (see the next section).
The male ensemble of the Rondinella singers performs the first line of text and then performs a wordless repetition on the suggested melody using low, nasal, guttural singing. This style of vocalisation also forms the middle or B section of the entire Rondinella structure and provides the transitional motif between the two verses.
Rere is one of the oldest forms of folklore that has survived in the Dalmatian hinterland and in the very south of Herzegovina and it involves wordless intoning of a few notes within a limited melodic range. A form of rere that includes words/text is called ganga and such a form of singing is called ganganje.
Ganganje can also involve wordless singing that is shaped to melodically resemble the previously sung line with text, so it becomes a vocal impression of a specific text setting. Thus, ganga can be purely textual or both textual and wordless. Ugresic describes a ganga performance: “The men sing in a group, their arms round each other’s shoulders, the veins on their neck swollen, their faces red, their legs placed wide apart-emitting strong, guttural sounds in a range of two or three notes” (1994, p.7).
The symbolism of Rondinella as implied through both its title and musical structure suggests a circle or cyclic shape. Interestingly enough, the two circles are seen in the wedding after-party scene. The first one is the circle of the local wedding guests from the outskirts of Paris where the women are dancing around the ensemble of the court musicians while the children are playing hide-and-seek in the crowd.
The second circle, much less elevated and optimistic in its spirit, shows the wrestling men. Although the wrestling initially appears as the sport that these men favour, the atmosphere darkens as one Catholic and one Protestant are in the circle and the hatred of the two religious groups is brought to attention once again.
The two circles form an old symbol of Christianity since in the old times one of the ways for Christians to silently declare themselves was to draw two interlocking circles. The space where the two circles intersect forms la mandorla- the symbol of Christ. Although the Italian translation suggests an almond shape, the usual description for the mandorla also refers to the stylised fish shape.
Mandorla is symbolic of the interactions and independence of opposing worlds and forces, and it also may be taken to represent spirit and matter or Heaven and Earth.
The two circles in the film are symbolic of Catholic and Protestants and how together they seem to fail to realise that they are all Christians - united in the same mandorla.
Rondinella also forms its own mandorla within the Rondo form. Two sung verses representative of section A interlock into the middle B section, into a “sound mandorla” in which Bregovic explores the evocative qualities of the ganganje flavoured vocal writing.
Mandorla instructs people to reconcile and is extremely important in any power torn world, including both 1572 and the present day. It appears that Bregovic’s experiences of the Balkanian conflicts in the former Yugoslavia expressed through music become highly applicable in wider contexts. From “his Balkans”, as Bregovic frequently calls them, travelling backwards and forwards throughout the centuries, these musical motives evoke the potential healing process for the torn worlds.
And what is that healing process? It seems that both Bregovic and Chereau suggest that greater attention needs to be given to the symbolic meaning of mandorla.
This composition caught my attention at the very beginning of this research. The work Elo Hi is also subtitled as Canto Nero. The subtitle Canto Nero is thought provoking although there is virtually no information on its meaning or symbolism both in general or in relation to this particular soundtrack.
Regardless of this shortage of information, there have been many interesting connections between the possible meaning of this musical form and the suggested conflict between the Catholics and Protestants as portrayed in the film.
The choir singers chant the words canto nero in both Elo Hi and La nuit de la Saint Barthelemy and in both cases this motif becomes the counter-melody to the main compositional material.
The subtitle Canto Nero possibly suggests certain connections with the Cult of Black Madonna. The Cult of Black Madonna is not some kind of a Devil worshiping sect, rather this term was used (particularly throughout the Renaissance and the Baroque) to describe those who indulged in the acts of Nature and Mother Earth worshiping.
This film introduces us to the exiled Protestants living in the province of Navarre. Their life connects with nature. In the film, Henri, Margot’s husband, makes references to the love of life, nature, people, food, etc. On the opposite side, the Catholics are living in their oppressive and self-destructive glamour. The ruling family is portrayed through their hypocrisy and debaucheries. In the scene of Henri’s conversion to Catholicism, there is a brief mention of the return to the Apostolic Catholic Church and of the rejection of heresy and sects such as the Protestant sect.
Such statements (discussing cults and sects) combined with the film’s portrayal of the Protestant life-style and the creative application of the traditional musical motives to evoke “Orientalism”, all suggest that the Protestants could have been perceived by the Catholics as the worshipers of Black Madonna. Following the suggested implications, the expression canto nero becomes a perfect analogy for the communal Protestant character in the film. The motif of canto nero is more than just musical symbolism of the “Oriental” conceptual basis, it is the example of conceptual “otherness” expressed from the “Occidental” reference point.
Having established the analytical pattern for metaphorical contextualisation of the soundtrack, it is important to also compare the impact of the musical analogies in relation to the visually transmitted facts. If film is primarily a visually received medium what is the full capacity of other types of information transmission?
Can we describe the soundtrack as an audio-conceptual film script (the sound script) and what is the supporting evidence for such assumption?
How much does film music extend beyond a supporting role and is it a possible sound laboratory for the dramatic conflict and socio-cultural issues of the given film material? And how does the composer treat this possible soundtrack capacity in his/her creative applications? Does Bregovic’s metaphorical conceptualisation heighten the dramatic impact of music in the given films?
The previous section refers to the establishment of the conceptual basis through use of traditional music and folk elements in original composition. The entire section has accentuated an analysis on an “Oriental” conceptual basis, because of the particular ethno-cultural qualities of the soundtrack music and Bregovic’s metaphorical application of the traditional sound. In order to unify the two bases and present this soundtrack as a relevant audio-conceptual tool, it is important to explain the musical relationship of “Orientalism” and “Occidentalism” and trace their meeting points in the studied compositions.
The music for La nuit de la Saint Barthelemy has already been described with regards to the establishment of “Orientalism” in its overall structure. Given the nature of the scene and its dramatic conflict and the proposed musical metaphors of the soundtrack, it is crucial to also discuss the “Occidental” musical references. This particular marriage between the conceptual proximity and distance is also one of Bregovic’s most distinctive musical features in his soundtrack opus.
His complex compositional gestures are not lacking in organisation, both individually and when contextualised in the overall conceptual patterning of the film. Bregovic’s works in the Queen Margot soundtrack are not the random Balkanic overloads that they first may appear to be. His eclectic reunions of the modern and traditional, chaotic and organised, improvisatory and formalised are placed with such precise reference to the characters on screen that their intentions and actions become perfectly aligned with the analogies of the proposed conceptual analysis. The success of Bregovic’s musical dialogue between “Orientalism” and “Occidentalism” is in their actual thematic closeness to one another. His musical conflict is created through a paradox of musical similarities in these (apparently) disparate musical fragments.
The music for La nuit de la Saint Barthelemy involves two different treatments of musical materials. The first one is anchored in the compositional principles of “Western Art Music” (the choral section of the composition), while the second is based upon the traditional principles of vocal folk music (the small vocal ensemble section). These elements are always in counterpoint with one another and, like two dialects of an essentially similar language, they fully display possible stylistic appropriations and transformations of melodic fragments and rhythmic structures within one musical framework.
For every “Occidental” musical motif which is portrayed through the use of choral writing in the style of sacred “Western Art Music”, there is a folklorically conceived “Oriental” equivalent. These motifs of conceptual otherness are musically portrayed in quasi-traditional arrangements of the previously heard materials that are heavily “ethploited”.
Bregovic’s socio-musical wit hides in his bold musical statements that define the opposed religious and ethnic groups in the film as conceptually different yet essentially similar. If these ideas are taken into consideration, his Balkanic overload is not over-orchestrated but is as dynamic and different as the world and humanity are, and is universally acceptable in its emotionally intelligent chaos and applicable in wider conceptual contexts. Every perfect musical phrase with faultless harmonic language and immaculate vocal intonation has irregular melodic and harmonic equivalents favouring rough, unpolished vocal deliveries. Bregovic has expressed his love for the spontaneity of traditional music on many different occasions.
It’s much better a Gypsy brass band, even if out of tune, than a Madame Butterfly imprisoned by the routine.
(Bregovic in Fabretti, 2003)
Margot is similar to La nuit de la Saint Barthelemy in its socio-musical implications. However, the “Oriental-Occidental” duality of this composition is even more fascinating than the previous example because it assists the conceptual split within one person – princess and later Queen Margot. The communal conceptual division of characters suggests that Margot is an “Occidentalist”. Paradoxically to the communal conceptualisation, she is individually portrayed, both musically and dramatically as an outsider among the “Occidentalists”.
Margot’s character music is a powerful hybrid of vocal musical traditions roaming between the realms of the “Western Art Music” styles and a traditional musical aesthetic. The meeting point between the two is even more implicitly witty in this example. Margot’s loneliness that is the result of her misplacement in “Occidentalism” is clearly portrayed through classically based vocal configurations evocative of Western Art sacred choral music.
Contrary to that, her “Oriental tendencies” (her dissatisfaction at the French court, rejection of her family’s principles, love for La Mole, loyal friendship to her Protestant husband Henri, etc.) are musically portrayed through smooth transitions of musical materials from “Western Art” musical style choral writing to more folkloric vocal deliveries.
The choir music is on the far “West” of Margot’s conceptual basis, while in the far “East” she is serenaded by the mystical qualities of the female singing in the styles of both Balkan traditional secular and sacred Orthodox music. This composition alone embodies the weight of her “Occidental” status (as a member of the royal family and a potential queen) and the intimacy of her “Oriental” intention (as a lonely person and a young woman in love).
The last three compositions in the second table (see Appendix) are most challenging to describe. Le matin, Margot and Elo Hi are different layers of Margot’s character themes. The intricacy of these compositions is in the conceptual aspect of the Margot that they portray.
In the hypothesis, Margot is essentially presented as an “Occidental” character. Her conceptual positioning shifts throughout the development of the story. At the same time, her three pieces all feature strong “Oriental” conceptual characteristics. All three are heavily flavoured with folk music and are vocal compositions.
The first piece, Le matin, covers Margot’s wandering down the streets of Paris on the day of her first encounter with her future lover La Mole. Although, as an audience, we know the story line so far, and realise that Margot, an outsider in her own family and culture, is misplaced in her native environment, the musical allusion to the conceptual distance has more impact than anything else that is visually perceived. The soft, chanting female voice leads us to imaginatively start believing that maybe Margot will somehow challenge the pre-conceived conceptual order and make the transition from the known “proximity” into the “unknown” distance. This composition is a hint of Margot’s forthcoming transformation and is heard before we see her encounters with La Mole or any further development of her interaction with other “Occidental” characters.
Margot is background music for several scenes. It first appears in the in the massacre scene while Margot is nursing the severely injured La Mole who knocked on her door in his desperate attempt to escape. This music is heard in the moment of Margot’s realisation that the man she has been trying to forget has returned to her on that horrid night.
The same musical motif is heard during one of Margot and La Mole’s secret meetings. More elaborate treatment of the ethnic materials this time suggests a further push of Margot’s character into the conceptual distance. Her involvement with the unknown is audio-conceptually supported in the soundtrack as it progresses in the story line.
This composition also goes a few steps further in its romantic expression than Le matin. The treatment of the melodic materials is developed through quasi-Romantic gestures, including a rich use of choir voices. The importance of the female solo is stated through long, hauntingly beautiful lines. Traditional materials are treated with great attention to detail and with an elaborate accentuation of the different aesthetic qualities between traditional and classical singing.
Elo Hi is the last composition in the film. It accompanies the final scene and the closing credits. Margot gets in the carriage that will take her to the province of Navarre, carrying the head of her executed lover La Mole wrapped in a piece of silk. She is musically supported by the haunting voice of the Israeli singer Ofra Haza, as she literally makes her way to “otherness”. In this scene, we see only several seconds of her journey to Navarre; the rest of it is a journey of perceptual or imaginative order, as created for the audience through the audio-conceptual power of the soundtrack and the “Oriental” function of its traditional musical elements.
Although the audience watches the scene of Henri’s conversion to Catholicism during the first half of the film, Margot’s audio-perceptual conversion as heard through the use of traditional musical elements that allude to her “Oriental” involvement is much more powerful for the viewer and listener.
In Queen Margot, Patrice Chereau presents a journey into the war-torn France and portrays some aspects of the Catholic-Protestant conflict of that era. Bregovic’s soundtrack remains faithful to his musical feeding ground that stretches from the Middle East to Central Europe. The discussion addresses his musical use of Balkan as a metaphor, but do the reasons for these choices stretch beyond cultural familiarity and musical heritage?
In this film, we again see the conflict of two apparently opposing groups. Rondinella symbolically unites them into the interlocking circles which intimate that they both share Christian and French heritage. In La nuit de la Saint Barthelemy, the Protestants and the Catholics are musically reunited through Bregovic’s juxtapositions of the Western Art and traditional Balkan musical exploitation of thematically similar materials.
Although we see two different groups, identify the “Orientalists” and “Occidentalists” and watch the tension, conflict and its outcomes, the musical analogies and visual symbolism instruct us to see that there really is no second group.
Just like in Kusturica’s films, where there is really no second conflicting group, in Chereau’s production of Queen Margot, we learn of that intricate opposition among the members of similar group.
The film always takes us back inwardly, to Paris and to the Louvre as the heart of France, whereas the province of Navarre comparatively informs us of the situation at the court.
The beauty of the Protestant life-style in Navarre exposes the destruction evident at the French court. The conflict with the Protestants also speeds up the decay of the royal Catholic family. This is more damaging to their rulership than the thousands of Protestants that they slaughtered in the massacre.
These dramatic qualities enable Bregovic to observe the conflict with a similar outlook to that applicable in Kusturica’s films. The dramatic tension of the multi-faceted Balkan artistic expression creates suitable analogies for the given dramaturgy.
Following the “inward Sarajevan principle”, Bregovic turns back to his musical heritage just like Chereau portrays an essentially inward conflict in France.
France, one of the most powerful European and world forces throughout the socio-political history from before the time of Queen Margot to the present day, is musically portrayed by the analogies of the small turbulent Balkan nations.
Bregovic’s musical appropriations expose the similarities between the internal political, religious and national tensions in different cultures. The meeting point between him and Chereau becomes that inward conceptualisation that takes us back to the metaphor of the world, of the universe and Borges’ “Aleph”
Although Queen Margot is Chereau’s French production, the analysis has unravelled many similarities between the conceptual principles of this film and the two case studies directed by Kusturica.
The most important common element among these three examples is the conceptual duplicity that occurs within an individual character as is always the case with the main characters. The case-study analyses have presented Kusturica’s films as conceptual training ground for Bregovic’s soundtracks, so in the Queen Margot soundtrack we witness a mature and thorough approach to the use of Balkan as a musical metaphor of the presented theatrical conflict.
In Queen Margot, we follow the development of the character’s musical theme from the large vocal ensemble setting during Margot’s “Occidental” positioning, to more intimate solo voice settings as she recognises the love that she feels for a member of an enemy group. This new feeling takes her to the “Oriental” positioning that develops further throughout the film.
The most powerful visual and musical moment that portrays Margot’s conceptual duplicity is the scene in which she recognises that the wounded man that she rescued is La Mole.
Margot and her servant Henriette take the man covered in blood into their chambers and try to undress him and wash his wounds. This moment is musically accompanied by the large vocal ensemble chanting Margot’s theme.
In the next moment, Margot holds the delirious man who is muttering, as he thinks that she is an angel taking him into the other world. She realises who he is, and in that moment we hear the solo voice chanting Margot’s theme. There is a momentary close up on Margot’s beautiful and fragile face and we hear the mystical voice of Bregovic’s soloist. The singing style has changed from the “Western Art Music” choir style singing to the vocalisations more commonly heard in Orthodox sacred music. The singing is more resonant, the vibrato is lighter and the vocal placement is more chest and throat based than it is in sacred West Christian music.
Queen Margot soundtrack exemplifies Bregovic’s analytical framework established through both the “inward Sarajevan principle” and Kusturica’s productions. France is musically reunited into a complex whole with different opposing parts. Just like in Karahasan’s metaphorical descriptions of Sarajevo (see Chapter I) where it is possible for an element to acquire many contradictory aspects without losing its previous characteristics, in the Queen Margot soundtrack Bregovic uses simple melodies and chord progression mixed with various Balkan traditional and “Western Art Music” ingredients until new musical analogies are created. The following chapter uncovers the main unifying points and compositional strategies behind Bregovic’s film opus.
the expression relates to the ensemble of Yugoslav singers improvising a non-grammatically correct language that resembles Italian
I will continue to use the expression in relation to the three pieces used to portray Margot’s character
Tracks number one and number fourteen are similar, the latter one is a shorter version of the same song.
the whole section was developed after the research from an article by Dubravka Ugresic, Rere published in Labon, J., (1994) Balkan Blues; Writing Out of Yugoslavia, Storm Magazine, London
rondare(Ital.) or rondar (Spanish) – to circle
la mandorla-Italian for an almond or an almond shape
a linguistic hybrid between “ethnic” and “exploitation” extrapolated from the title of Mark Neyrinck’s article ( see the reference list)
BALKAN AS A METAPHOR IN THE FILM COMPOSITION OF GORAN BREGOVIC - by Nela Trifkovic (Nela Trifković)
Virtual Cultural Centre of WA