The Saddest Music in the World: A Surreal Melodrama

analytical Essay
2152 words
2152 words

Canadian filmmaker and cinephile, Guy Maddin once said, “I do feel a bit like Dracula in Winnipeg. I’m safe, but can travel abroad and suck up all sorts of ideas from other filmmakers… Then I can come back here and hoard these tropes and cinematic devices.” Here, Maddin addresses his filmmaking saying that he takes aspects from different film styles and appropriates them into his own work. In The Saddest Music in the World (2003), Maddin uses a combination of French Surrealist filmmaking and classical American Hollywood cinema, specifically melodrama, to create his own style. In an article by William Beard, Steven Shaviro talks about Maddin’s filmmaking, and he links Surrealism and melodrama together saying, “Maddin’s films are driven by a tension between romantic excess [melodrama] on the one hand and absurdist humour [Surrealism] on the other.” In regards to The Saddest Music in the World, the relationship between Surrealism and melodrama is not one of tension, as Shaviro suggests, but one of cooperation. This paper will analyze two films by filmmakers Maddin was familiar with —Un Chien Andalou (1929) by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali on the Surrealist side, and All That Heaven Allows (1955) by Douglas Sirk on the melodrama side—to showcase the important elements of each, concluding with an analysis of The Saddest Music in the World in conjunction with both film styles. Ultimately, it will be shown how Guy Maddin combines French Surrealist cinema and Hollywood melodrama in The Saddest Music in the World, to create his own unique film style.

Un Chien Andalou (1929) by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali is the quintessential Surrealist film, including shocking imagery, non-linear time, black humour, oddities and a specific editing st...

... middle of paper ...

...Saddest Music in the World. DVD. Directed by Guy Maddin. 2003; Winnipeg: MGM Home Entertainment, 2004.

Un Chien Andalou. Youtube. Directed by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali. France.

Beard William. “Maddin and Melodrama.” Canadian Journal of Film Studies 14.2 (2005): 2-15.

Beebe, John. “Canadian Surrealism.” The San Francisco Jung Institute Library Journal 23.3 (2004): 85-89.

Coombs, Neil. Studying Surrealist and Fantasy Film. New York: Columbia University Press, 2008.

Losier, Marie and Porton, Richard. “The Pleasures of Melancholy: An Interview with Guy Maddin.” Cineaste 29.3 (2004): 18-25.

Semley, John. “From Big Snow to Big Sadness: The Repatriation of Canadian Cultural Identity in the Films of Guy Maddin.” Cineaction 73 (2008): 32-37.

White, Kenneth. “Forget Your Desire: The Cinema of Guy Maddin.” Millenium Film Journal 45/46 (2006): 133-139.

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how guy maddin combines french surrealist filmmaking and hollywood melodrama to create his own unique film style.
  • Explains that un chien andalou is the quintessential surrealist film, with shocking imagery, non-linear time, black humour, oddities, and a specific editing style.
  • Analyzes how douglas sirk's film, all that heaven allows, is an excellent example of hollywood melodrama with a linear storyline, cause-effect, conflict resolution, heightened emotion/action, happy ending, and its own editing style.
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