Music plays an important role in every film, but especially novel to film adaptations. Film Composers must take extra care in scoring these movies because the music fills in the gaps and gives us more insight into the plot. In film adaptations, music is often used to fill us in on what we may have missed from reading the novel. Music adds overall cohesion in these films that would otherwise seem like they were missing something. The music can be used as an insight into characters thoughts, emotions, feelings and even their personality.
The music in The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons does just that and also plays the role of another character, the narrator. Hans Zimmer composed the scores to both The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons. Both these films are based on the novels with the same titles by author Dan Brown. Angels and Demons was released by Dan Brown in 2000. This was not a success until he released The Da Vinci Code in 2003. This novel immediately became a New York Times’ bestseller and has sold over 80 million copies. Both novels feature the same main character, Robert Langdon.
The film adaptations, both directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks, were released in opposite order, The Da Vinci Code being released in 2006 and Angels and Demons released in 2009. Dan Brown was born in 1964 in New Hampshire. His family was both musical and spiritual. His interest in puzzles and mysteries comes from his family. They would spend hours working on puzzles and going on elaborate treasure hunts. Brown graduated from Amherst College and spent a year studying in Seville, Spain. His first career was as a singer/songwriter.
He produced two albums that each only sold over one-hundred copies. His first book, Digital Fortress, had very little success. It wasn’t until The Da Vinci Code that Dan Brown became an international success. All of his books are thriller fictions that take place during a 24-hour period and take the reader on a miraculous treasure hunt. Hans Zimmer was born in 1957 in Germany. He has composed the music for over one-hundred Hollywood films. He is the head of film music at DreamWorks. His composition style usually blends traditional orchestral sounds with electronic music.
In his films, he usually spends time studying the sounds of the film before he begins composing or goes to great lengths to create an authentic score. For The Last Samurai, Zimmer spent much time researching Japanese music before he composed the score. He traveled to Africa to use authentic drums and choirs for the film The Power of One. Some of his most notable film scores are, Gladiator, Pearl Harbor, Hannibal, Madagascar, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, Frost/Nixon and Sherlock Holmes. He has received numerous awards including the Lifetime Achievement Award in film Composition from the National Board of Review.
Angels and Demons follows Robert Langdon through the Vatican City and Rome as he tries to stop the Illuminati from destroying the Vatican City and the Catholic Church. A scientist is found murdered with the ambigram “Illuminati” branded on his chest. The director of this facility contacts Langdon’s assistance in solving the murder. Langdon finds this symbol to be a sign that this group, the illuminati, have resurfaced. The murdered scientist’s daughter, Vittoria soon arrives and finds that her canister of antimatter has been stolen. This small canister is extremely dangerous and has the potential to blow up a small town.
The canister of antimatter only has a short battery life and they figure they only have twenty-four hours until it deploys on its own. The Illuminati have left the canister of antimatter hidden in Vatican City with a camera that shows the countdown until the explosion. Both Langdon and Vittoria rush to Vatican City where the cardinals are about to enter papal conclave to vote for a new Pope. They discover that the four Preferiti are all missing. Langdon and Vittoria are assisted in looking for the missing Preferiti and canister by the Camerlengo and the Swiss Guard. They begin to trace the steps of the “Path of Illumination. Each step along the path leads them to four major locations around the city of Rome and each associated with Earth, Air, Fire and Water. At each location they find one of the Preferiti who is already murdered. After they find the first two bodies, they try to get ahead of the Illuminati to try and save the other Preferiti. At the third location, they find the kidnapper in the process of killing the third Preferiti and discover that he has the canister. Langdon then races to the final location and the kidnapper drops the final Preferiti into the fountain. Langdon is able to save him with the help of civilians.
He tells Langdon the location of the Illuminati’s lair. We find out that the assassin was hired by the Catholic Church, but is killed trying to escape in his get away car by a bomb employed when he starts the car. They believe there is one final victum, the Camerlengo. During much confusion, the Swiss Guards kill the Commander Richter to save the Camerlengo. Before he dies, he hands Langdon a key to his office where they find the stolen antimatter. The Camerlengo runs in and seizes the antimatter and takes it up in a helicopter so it can explode over the city and not kill any of the people.
He jumps from the helicopter via parachute and is now seen as a hero. Landon and Vittoria take the key back to the Camerlengo’s office and find a security tape showing that the one who killed the previous pope, the preferiti and stole the antimatter was the camerlengo and not the Illuminati. Once the camerlengo realizes that his secret has been found out and he will not be named the next Pope he kills himself inside St. Peter’s Basilica. The fourth preferiti who was saved becomes the newest pope. Symbologist Robert Langdon in The Da Vinci Code is thrown into a strange murder mystery.
Langdon is called into the Louvre by the police detective, Jerome Collet, to inspect the body of the museum’s curator, Jacques Sauniere. A monk of Opus Dei (Silas) wants the location of the Holy Grail and Sauniere lies to the monk about the location. The monk kills him anyways. In Sauniere’s last living moments he paints a pentacle on his stomach in his own blood to recreate the position of Vitruvian Man by Leonardo Da Vinci as a sign to his granddaughter and Langdon. Langdon is asked to interpret the scene even though he is being suspected of the murder.
Soon after Langdon arrives, Sauniere’s granddaughter arrives and meets Langdon. She secretly warns him that he is being tracked by the police with a tracking device. They throw it out the window onto a moving truck to trick the police. The police return and Langdon is arrested but Sophie is able to disarm the police and she and Langdon run from the building. Sauniere has left them with a coded message that leads them from the Mona Lisa to a Swiss bank. A cryptex is left for them with a message inside but they can only open it with a password.
The police are called on them, but a friend of Sauniere’s and the bank’s manager helps them to escape. The manager turns his back on them as soon as they are out of the bank, but are again able to escape. Langdon realizes that the cryptex is actually the key to the Holy Grail. They immediately travel to Sir Leigh Teabing to ask for help. He tells them that the Holy Grail is the grave of Mary Magdalene and contains documentation that she was married to Jesus. Silas appears but they are able to tie him up. The police arrive but Teabing is able to hide them in the back of his car and escape to his private plane and are now off to England.
Sophie and Langdon eventually find that Teabing is the head of Opus Dei and had his monk kill Sauniere. He forces them to open the cryptex. Langdon pretends to break it even though he has already taken the message out of it. Teabing is arrested. Sophie and Langdon are off to Scotland where Sophie is reunited with her grandmother and brother. She discovers that she is in fact the Holy Grail – the bloodline from Jesus Christ. In an interview with both the director and composer, Ron Howard states, “There is a fantastic piece of music at the end of The Da Vinci Code, and that was sort of the birth of … Robert Langdon.
Then in Angels and Demons, that is what Hans wound of carrying over to define this movie as really a Robert Langdon journey and adventure. ” In novel to film adaptations, directors cannot give a blow by blow synopsis telling us about everything that is going on, like the summaries above. They use screen writers to adapt the novel into a script. The overall goal is to bring Dan Brown’s books alive. Obviously, because of time restrictions and the fact that it would be quite boring, they must compress material into shorter narrative scope.
A great example of this can be seen in The Da Vinci Code during Silas’s character introduction. In the novel, chapter 10 is entirely dedicated to telling Silas’s story of his past and how he came to be. In the movie, accompanied by the mournful emotion music sums up this chapter quite well without actually telling the entire story. The Music acts as a narrative voice telling us how Silas came to the church after having a horrible incident involving his family. His father beats his mother and Silas then accidently kills his father. (29:20)
Another aspect of these two films is the way in which music gives us an insight into what Robert Langdon, the main character, is thinking. He often times figures out codes and reads deeply into symbols. In both books we can hear what Robert is thinking in his mind and visually see pictures of the codes and how he reworks them numerous times to solve the puzzles. In both the films music is used a long with beautiful visual effects to represent everything that is going on inside Robert’s mind. A great example of this can be seen near the end of the Da Vinci Code (1:53:15).
Robert turns his back to the other two characters in the scene and looks up to the beautiful walls of the cathedral and to the ancient sculptures for answers. While he holds the cryptex in his hands we hear powerful strings churning with a driving force underlying. The images on the screen also show us images of what is running through his mind. Like the novels, both films are related. In the novels, Dan Brown uses the same main character and a very similar writing style. Both novels take place in 24-hour time periods and involve religious and scientific mysteries.
Hans Zimmer creates unity between these two films musically. The main theme used in both films can be heard on both sound tracks and throughout both films in many different ways. We first hear this main theme when Robert first becomes entangled with murder. (5:51) This theme represents all the drama and mystery surrounding both films. Primarily in the Da Vinci Code the theme is heard with a full orchestration. The entire film uses only orchestral instruments and chorus. Both elements relate to some of the oldest forms of music such as chant. Zimmer uses these elements to bring us into the past associated with this film.
The Da Vinci Code is flooded with history and the past. The music reflects this throughout the film. In Angels and Demons the music has more elements of modernism relating to the more modern twist on this film. There are still many elements of ancient and medieval history and music, but this is more of an action film filled with much more modern science. Zimmer uses a smaller chamber orchestra along with the solo violin, played by Joshua Bell, along with the electric organ and keyboard. All of these musical elements help to make Angels and Demons a more modern twist on ancient history.
A great example of this new twist on style in Angels and Demons can be heard in the cue “503. ” This music is played during the end credits of the film. This music combines the main theme from both films with the newer elements of electronics. Zimmer uses many elements of traditional Catholic music in both film scores. He uses aspects taken straight out of the Catholic Mass such as the Kyrie eleison and the Angus dei and several people’s chants. This helps to ground the music in the historical past and constantly remind us that these films are dealing with mysteries dating back to ancient times.
The film composer must take extra caution when scoring a novel to film adaptation. They must take into consideration that this job is to help fill us in on what we could have missed by not reading the novel. The film score helps to tell the story and on a deeper level and to connect us with all of the intricacies of the unfolding plot.
Axelrod, Mark. I Read it at the Movies: The Follies and Boibles of Screen Adaptation. Portsmith, NH. 2007. Dan Brown Official Website. www. danbrown. com. (accessed March 5, 2010. ) Geraghty, Christine. Now A Major Motion Picture Film Adaptations of Literature and Drama. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2008. Jenkins, Greg. Stanley Kubrick and the Art of Adaptation: Three Novels, Three Films. McFarland & Company, Inc. 1997. Leitch, Thomas. Film Adaptation and Its Discontents: From Gone with the Wind to The Passion of Christ. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore. 2007. McFarlane, Brian. Novel To Film: An Introduction to the Theory of Adaptation. Carendon Press, Oxford. 1996. The Official Fan Page of Hans Zimmer. www. hans-zimmer. com. (accessed March 3, 2010. )