Role of Music in Atonement

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Atonement is a movie full of sorrow, loss, betrayal, grief, jealousy, misery, and unhappiness. Set in the mid 1900s the movie’s story is told and felt during many sounds and songs played throughout the entire movie. Musical composer Dario Marianelli brings together symbolic sounds mixed with dramatic, sorrowful music to help piece together the elements of the tragic story. The movie is told through two perspectives: the eyes of young girl and her writing as she moves through life and as she looks back on certain memorable, disastrous moments that shaped her life. Rotating around three main characters, Marianelli successfully uses diagetic and non-diagetic music and sounds to bring together their environments and lives to tie it all together. The very opening scene brings the first symbolic sound, thirteen-year-old Briony’s typewriter as she frantically is writing a play for her younger cousins to act. A second typewriter is also introduced as a young boy frantically writes a letter. Both typewriters foreshadow a connection between the two characters and are a sound present throughout the movie. As the sounds of the typewriter carry on a soft, light melody plays through as the movie shifts over to show shots of the older sister Cecilia and her lover, the servant Robby. The storyline unfolds, as Briony is naïve and innocent to the cruel world around her. Atonement’s lighting flickers back and forth between light and dark like the candles/lighter that turn on and off symbolically throughout the beginning of the movie. Also the sound of the many burning cigarettes smoked adds to the dramatic effects of foreshadowing an explosive event. When overtaken by jealousy Briony puts her own self in a situation not fully understanding the consequences of her accusations to follow. The music accompanies the distraught as a family is torn apart and lines are drawn with betrayal and childish acts. Soft empty-sounding music and sounds of a piano are played emphasizing...
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