Importance of music in accomplishing the themes of ‘the upside.’

Shaji Mitchell

Importance of music in accomplishing the themes of ‘the upside.’

Most individuals feel that music is a lifesaver and a gateway to the soul, making up life’s soundtrack. In movies, the music captures individuals emotions and is a powerful score to trigger the interest of the individuals towards the story of the movie. The upside features the music of late music icon Aretha Franklin, ‘Queen of Soul,’ with the musical chords woven in various scenes depending on the mood and tone of the story. It is a comedy-drama film directed by Neil Burger and written by Jon Hartmere, partly based on a true story of quadriplegic millionaire Philippe Pozzo di Borgo and his former aide, Abdel Sellou. It has involved various music, including untouchables, the penthouse, three signatures, dreams, the book, and a walk in the park, to describe the variated feelings, moods, and themes. The story addressed the societal attitude towards an ex-convict and the struggles that occur to convince people of his changed behaviour. Therefore, the songs used to represent his struggles, feelings, and feelings towards the societal perception of him. Music in the film upside has helped to introduce the themes and communicate with the audience through the rhythm, sound, melody and expressions. It contributes to developing the themes ‘everyone decides a second chance’, body image and familial connections, enhancing plot development. Music on the upside is used to define the mood and atmosphere of the movie in the various scenes. It introduces the emotions of the characters depending on the underlying stories presented (Hoeckner, 2011). In the scene where Philip lies on the bed with deep thoughts, Puccini Turandot, Nessun Dorma, plays in the background. The music was loud as a form of stress received and made the listener feel alive. Nessun Dorma exudes a contemplative mood through the tone variations and rhythm of the song. The audience can identify the contemplative mood of the character as he thinks about his wife and the accident that led to the death f his wife and him being paralyzed for good. Also, the slow tempo of the music with a powerful voice and lyrical signifies a somber mood and the bitter thought that the character had at the moment. Therefore, the environment is a bit sad as Philip contemplates his life and seems to think deeply.

Music has also been used to signify the dramatic effect or comedy in the movie. In the shower scene, Kevin Hart’s acts signify actions of comedy as he tries to put the shower on with no success. The director uses The Barber of Seville in the scene: Act 1 – Cavatina: Largo al factotum della città (Figaro) music in a swift tempo and tonal variations. The music is a comic opera that is sung dramatically on a light comic nature and usually with a happy ending. In the scene, Hart tries to turn n the shower, but due to his life in the slum areas of the city, he fails to know how to use the technologies. He, therefore, fumbles with the gadget until water comes out in high pressure, and he fails to control it. However, he manages to get a shower. The music rhythm, tempo and pitch keep rising to signify the climax of the comedy.

Also, when then Dell was changing the catheter, the scene presents more comedy than completion of the task. The producer uses a piece of music to introduce the tense environment that Dell existed in. The music involves tonal variations with high and low pitches, which depicts the climax of the act. Dell viewed the task as distasteful, and after a great deal of protestation and exaggerated faces, he learns to have a controlled emotion when touching another man’s penis and even mentions the word. However, the climax of the scene occurs when Yvonne gets into the room announced and has to be informed by Philip that they needed a second for Dell to compose himself. At this time, the music gets louder and more variations describing the satire and intense condition felt by Yvonne and Dell.

Music also portrays the emotions of the characters in a movie (Ma et al., 2021). After Dell goes through a hard time in the shower trying to turn it on, he goes to Philip’s room with anger and finds him listening to a Nessum Dorma; he asks the music to stop even though Philip wants to listen it. According to Dell, Philip should listen to music that soothes even though he wants to ‘block out the world.’ He suggests that Philp should listen to Aretha Franklin as he states, “You wanna feed the soul, then listen to its queen.” Dell also tries to sing out some lyrics from Aretha’s music. In the scene, the Nessum Dorma music and Dell’s singing expose Philip’s emotion at the time. He feels devastated and has lost hope in life; hence Dell suggests listening to the ‘queen of soul.’ In the scene, the audience is introduced to Philip’s hopeless life through the music introduced.

After Philip had a bad dream and struggled to breathe, Dell forces him to breathe and saves his life. He then decides to take him out to a concert where he watches some performances to up his spirits once again. The performance on that day involved Die Zauberflöte, K. 620, Act 2: “Der Hölle Rache” performed by Diana Damrau, Le Cercle De L’harmonie, Jérémie Rhorer. The music starts at a lower tone and tempo and rises with varying intonation until the pitch becomes very loud. The song attracted the attention of both Philip and Dee and depicted the changes they faced. Dee is an ex-convict and tries to earn societal trust and wishes to have his son’s love. Therefore, the songs showed their need to be happy and to have a more vibrant life by forgetting their past and focusing on the future. The music is soothing and encouraging hence communicating to the audience the emotional condition of the characters.

Music is an important aspect of music as it communicates to the audience informing on the environment condition, the characters’ emotions, and the dramatic effect presented in the movie. It attracts the audience’s attention and enables understanding of the story by revealing the theme presented and the feelings in particular scenes. The music on the upside depicted the characters’ emotions in different situations in the movie hence easier for the audience to follow through the themes presented. Also, it presented the key message of the movie, and one could determine the future of the characters presented and how the flow of the story.


Hoeckner, B., Wyatt, E. W., Decety, J., & Nusbaum, H. (2011). Film music influences how viewers relate to movie characters. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 5(2), 146.

Ma, B., Greer, T., Knox, D., & Narayanan, S. (2021). A computational lens into how music characterizes genre in film. PloS one, 16(4), e0249957.

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