November 18, 2012

Villain Composers

It's well established that movie villains like to listen to classical music. There's something about the intellectualism of classical music (especially Baroque composers (especially Bach)) that makes it a comfortable fit for evil geniuses, white collar criminals, and even the lowly-man's psychopath.

I'm not totally sure why we've chosen this style of music for on-screen villains. I think it may be a way to remove villains from mainstream society. We are often identified by the style of music we listen to and classical music is just obscure enough to paint itself into its own corner of our culture. By relating a villain to a style of music that's not as well understood as say, Britney Spears, we can remove the villain from our own level of society. This of course, doesn't work on me. I tend to like their choices in music. Another theory I have is that it's an easy way to create an ironic juxtaposition. By using classical music, a director or author can set a violent animalistic action against a high-brow artistic creation.

I personally like it more when a villain listens to something non-classical, like in David Fincher's Girl With the Dragon Tattoo when Enya's "Orinoco Flow" is used during the disturbing basement scene. That may be the exception though, and I sense that classical music will still be the villainous music of choice in the foreseeable future.

So I started thinking, what classical composers would some of my favorite villains listen to?

I went to some trouble preparing that game for McClane.
Movie: The Lion King

Defining evil moment: Dropping Mufasa off of a cliff thus instigating a coup d'etat and restructuring of Serengeti society that shocked the lion world in a way not seen since Mufasa dropped his predecessor off of a cliff. How do you think lion leaders are chosen?

Composer: Sergei Prokofiev
Now I realize that Scar is a lion and therefore doesn't have the technology required to listen to music of any sort, beside the music of giant starving cats and hyena foot-soldiers. Not only does Scar enjoy creating misery, he enjoys rubbing his rivals' faces in it. Due to his overthrow of a monarchy, and imposition of a new authority with his own party at the center (a party that I assume contained a unit dedicated to shaping of the arts) I'm choosing Sergei Prokofiev as his composer of preference. I could imagine a poor, crushed Prokofiev slaving away under the tyrannical fist of Scar, pushing out pieces such as the below Peter and the Wolf. The piece makes you happy? Imagine it being composed under the fear of being shipped off to a gulag.

Anton Chigurh
Have you met Jesus Christ?
Movie: No Country for Old Men

Defining Evil Moment: A cross-country trip with his trusty cattle gun which he uses to poke holes in people's skulls. Also he should smile sometimes!

Composer: Arvo Part
Anton Chigurh's absolute coolness and absence of humanity would be well reflected in the placidity and stillness of Arvo Part's choral music. Part's use of straight-tone singing and negative space in his choral compositions are an accurate reflection of what I imagine goes on in Chigurh's head. It's beautiful to be sure, but both Part's music and Chigurh's demeanor are some of the most terrifying things I've witnessed. 

Ramon Cota
I'm not touching you. I'm not touching you.
Movie: Delta Force 2, or Fuerza Delta 2

Defining Evil Moment: Ramon steals the baby from a worker in his field (his field filled with coca plants) and kills it, just so that he can stuff drugs inside it and ship it across the border. That's not even that much drugs! Also, he plays a voodoo villain guy in an episode of X-Files, which has nothing to do with this movie, but still.

Composer: Iannis Xenakis
Billy Drago (the actor here) has a highly distinguished looking face. So does Iannis Xenakis! It's been awhile since I saw this movie, but I remember Cota having a really nice house with a big chamber that was supposed to be filled with gas to kill Chuck Norris in. Pfft, puny gas can't kill Chuck Norris! I like to imagine this villain tucked away in a corner of his gargantuan house mainlining Xenakis' signature brand of extremely-difficult-to-listen-to music. Or maybe he uses it to kill Delta Force agents. So he can stuff drugs into their bodies!

Hal 9000
The character that inspired a generation of smart phones.
Movie: 2001, A Space Odyssey 

Defining Evil Moment: Being around all the time, not opening the door, playing with the thermostat. Being an all around brat.

Composer: Herbert Eimert. Haven't heard of Herbert Eimert? Probably because your puny human brain can't handle him. Hipster Hal 9000 knew about him before he got big. And by big, Hal 9000 means right now when the number of people who know who he is just jumped by 1. 1001111000011011011

Norman Bates
Movie: Psycho

Defining Evil Moment: Now the defining evil moment is when he kills everybody that shows up at his house. Back in 1960, the defining evil moment was when he wore women's clothes. 
"He seemed like such a nice boy until he put that wig on. Deviants really are ruining America."

Composer: Charles Ives
Norman Bates is your stereotypical American movie killer. He's handsome, awkward, has weird hobbies, and dresses in his mother's clothing. Kind of like J. Edgar Hoover! Both Bates and Ives have multiple things going on in their heads all of the time though. Ives with his multiple musical lines and keys juxtaposed on top of one another, and Bates with his multiple personalities smooshed into that pretty little head of his. They're both guys that you wouldn't mind bringing home to meet your parents until they tried to show off their special talents. 

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