Importance Of Music in Accomplishing The Themes Of ‘The Upside.’

Shaji Mitchell

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

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 included various music, including Untouchables, The Penthouse, Three Signatures, Dreams, The Book, and a Walk in The Park, to describe the different 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 behavior. Therefore, the songs used to represent his struggles, feelings, and feelings towards the societal perception of him. Philp loves the Barber of Seville La Traviata, which he listens to when feeling low, and he gets Del also to love the song even though it was not his preference. 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, which enhances 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. In the scene, at the 25th minute where Philip lies on the bed with deep thoughts, ‘Puccini Turandot, Nessun Dorma’ plays in the background. The music played was very loud, depicting Philip’s condition, and he wanted to get the anxiety and worries from his mind. Del does not like the song, but according to Phillip, it makes his spirit alive and shows him the value of life that he fails to see at the moment. ‘Nessun Dorma’ exudes a contemplative mood through the tone variations and rhythm of the song. The song is slow, with musical background with instruments such as the piano, guitar, and violin, which create the rhythm and the sequence of the songs. It starts slowly from the beginning with the direct pronunciation of words and rises slowly to the point where the listener cannot directly identify the words. However, the slow pace cools the mind and heart and leads one into a contemplative mood, which changes with varying intonation, and Aretha raises her pitch. The audience can identify the contemplative mood of the character as he thinks about his wife and the accident that led to the death of his wife and him being paralyzed for good. Also, the slow tempo of the music with a powerful voice and melodic signifies a somber mood and the bitter thought that Philip has at the moment. Therefore, the environment is a bit sad as Philip contemplates his life and seems to think deeply about his life and how he lost his wife after the accident. The rising intonation of ‘Nessum Dorma’ signifies the good part where they were happy on the parachute, and as it rises, it reaches the climax and then falls, as the parachute goes down, injuring them and killing his wife.

Music has also been used to signify the dramatic effect or comedy in the movie. Kevin Hart’s comic actions are shown in the shower scene 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 on the shower, but since he had gone to a multimillionaire house and most of the things were automatized, 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. The music is slow as he tries to operate the technological gadget and wonders why there is no response. Suddenly as the water starts to sprinkle all over, the music intonation and speed rise until he finds a way to stop the shower. The music slows down again, and he tries to figure out how to open it again. The water oozes again from the sides of the bathroom, and the music rises again to a crescendo, and it feels like the artist is shouting rather than singing. The changes in the speed and pitch signify the confusions that Del had at the moment.

The effect of changing speed and intonation can also be identified when Dell is changing the catheter; the scene presents more comedy than the completion of the task. The producer uses a piece of music to introduce the tense environment that Dell struggles with since he thought about the pain that Philip may be feeling at the moment and placed himself on the same shoe. The music involves tonal variations with high and low tones that depict the act’s climax. Dell finds the task 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 unannounced and has to be informed by Philip that they require some time for Dell to compose himself. At this time, the music gets louder and with more tonal variations describing the satire and intense condition felt by Yvonne and Dell. The instrumental involves high timbre and sound to depict the existing tension.

Music also portrays the emotions of the characters in ‘The Upside.’ 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 to it. According to Dell, Philip should listen to music that soothes his soul, such as Aretha Franklin, since he thinks that Dell’s music is not soothing. Philip uses his type of music to ‘block out the world,’ but according to Dell, the music is not soft thus not valuable to the individuals. 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. Dell sings part of Aretha’s Franklin in song; he is passionate about it and even asks Phillip how it sounds. However, Philip looks at him astonished and twisting his eyes, showing some disappointments. Dell then states, “Amazing, I sound just like her,” but Philip sarcastically replies that the singing is like identity theft. He fails to feel the sweetness that Dell was referring to since Dell failed to sing well.

On another occasion, as Philip was having a bad dream and had shortness of breath, Dell forces him to breathe to save his life. As Dell gets into the room, he is scared of losing Philip and acts fast by asking, “What do you want me to do”. At this time, the music tone increases as Philip’s shortness of breath also increases. He takes up the oxygen and places it on Philip’s face but refuses to breathe. Dell becomes angry with his failure to take in air and shouts, “you take a deep breath, or I am going to give you mouth to mouth.” The music is at the climax due to Dell’s anger, and Philip laughs about it. 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 included ‘Die Zauberflöte, K. 620, Act 2: “Der Hölle Rache” performed’ by Diana Damrau, and ‘Le Cercle De L’harmonie,  HYPERLINK “” Jérémie Rhorer’. The music starts at a lower tone and tempo and rises with varying intonation until the pitch becomes very loud. At first, Dell fails to pay attention and laughs about the tree man interrupting people’s attention who keep shushing him. However, as the performance continues, Dell becomes absorbed by the music until he finally rises to an enthusiastic standing ovation and “Bravo” at the end. Philip is astonished by Dell’s reaction and even smiles at the reactions he has seen. 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 attract Dell to start loving opera after the performance. The music is invigorating and encouraging hence communicating to Phillip and Dell the emotional condition of the characters.

To add on, at Philip’s birthday party, Dell ensures that Phillip is happy and enjoys himself celebrating his birthday. At one point, he comes back, and the room is silent. Philip asks, “What happened to the music?” The statement shows how his life relies on music, a form of reluctance to his pain and stress. Del coordinates the individuals to create a quartet of opera singers that makes Phillip smile. The ‘Der Holle Rache’ music with fluctuating notes starting with low to rising pitch is performed, making Philip smile his heart out. The rising pitch shows Philip’s growing spirit from his world of somberness and sadness to experiencing a new life. The music’s fast tempo also depicted the energy in which the character is ready to embrace new beginnings and have a better life. Dell dances his heart out and even welcomes the cook and Yvonne to dance with him. She was reluctant as she was more conservative and did not want to be the center of attraction. The scene shows the first moment where Yvonne becomes emotionally bonded with Dell despite how she handled him at first. The audience can interpret the music as a life-changing period after a lot of wraths, finding friends to his home to celebrate his birthday. He learns to embrace the good things in life and value the people around him.

Dell’s love for music is also shown when he comes back to save Philip from himself; he takes him for a ride. While in the vehicle, Philip plays his music which starts with ‘Nessun Dorma.’ Dell is not happy about it and states, “I am not in the mood to hear it.” However, Philip tells him to wait, which he does, and Aretha Franklin’s voice is heard in the same playlist. Dell is more content and even asks if that is his queen. Philip had become more interested in the music by the queen, and Dell is happy that Philip was convinced and states, “The queen make everything better.’ They go to a raised ground to talk, and the music still plays in the background. Its slowness is fit for the moment as Philip tries to find himself again after a traumatizing period. After the ride, they go back to the apartment; Philip gets a shave and is surprised to see Yvonne back in the mansion. Aretha’s music continues to play in the background and keeps rising as Philip’s smile and happiness also increase. It proves Dell’s point that the queen makes everything better. Music informs the audience of the emotions and feelings of the characters as the story flows.

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