Features and Columns · Movies

What Movies Tell Us About the Expressive Power of Mozart’s Lacrimosa

We often think about what pre-existing music tells us about films, but what do films tell us about pre-existing music?
Come And See and Mozart Lacrimosa
Belarusfilm
By  · Published on January 21st, 2022

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay on what movies can teach us about Mozart’s Lacrimosa movement.


As moviegoers, I think it’s fair to say that our initial impulse is to think about what a pre-existing piece of music says about a film rather than the reverse. After all, using pre-existing songs is a bit like deploying a short-hand, right? Blasting Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son” is how to let your audience know your movie is about the Vietnam War.  No parody of 2001: A Space Odyssey is complete without Richard Strauss’ “Thus Spoke Zarathustra.”

Heck, most movie trailers these days use pre-existing music as a musical shortcut to advertise the kind of film we should expect (not that I’m complaining about The Matrix Ressurections‘ use of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit,” or anything).

But the fact remains: we often look to music to give us special insight into films rather than the other way around. So in that spirit, the video essay below takes a look at one of the most prolific pieces of pre-existing music in cinema: the “Lacrimosa” movement of Mozart‘s “Requiem.”

Assembling a solid representation of the on-screen appearances of “Lacrimosa,” the video essay aims to underline how film can teach us about the expressive potential of a piece of music. And indeed, the range of resonances of “Lacrimosa” is incredible: from providing the backing track to moments of historical forbidding to moments of satire, to scenes of violent death.

Ultimately, the video essay argues that of all its many permutations, one of the most impactful examples of “Lacrimosa” in film takes place in Come and See, Elem Kilmov’s harrowing 1985 anti-war film about the German invasion of Byelorussia.

But enough words, let’s hit play:

Watch “What Movies Teach Us About Mozart”:


Who made this?

This video essay on what movies can teach us about Mozart’s “Lacrimosa” was created by The Nerdwriter, a.k.a. Evan Puschak. The Nerdwriter covers everything in the realm of art, culture, philosophy, science, and politics. Which is to say, uh, just about anything. You can check out The Nerdwriter’s eclectic back catalog and subscribe to their YouTube channel here. And you can follow Puschak on Twitter here.

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Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).