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The first movies were silent, so there were no conversations or dialogues. They relied only on the actors’ mastery of mimics and sound accompaniment. As cinematography develops, music becomes more sophisticated with the utilization of a greater number of instruments than before. Even though conversations are frequent in modern movies, the role of music has not become less significant as at the beginning of the previous century. Soundtracks and source music supplements the visual images in the film and evokes certain emotions in spectators. The film Mrs. Doubtfire is an American comedy-drama based on the novel Madame Doubtfire that portrays many sensitive and emotional scenes complemented by appropriate musical compositions produced by Howard Shore.
Such films as Home Alone, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and Mrs. Doubtfire are directed by Chris Columbus, thus they depict a typical festive and peculiar atmosphere. The latter movie was produced in 1993 depicting a story of Daniel Hillard who dresses up as a British nanny named Mrs. Doubtfire “to spend time with his three children after losing custody to his ex-wife, Miranda” (Wong).
This film comprises both very funny and rather melancholic moments which illustrate family situations and emotional experiences of the protagonist. This story is full of daily life situations such as relationships between spouses, caring about children, divorce, and many others. However, Chris Columbus focuses on the emotional saturation in the movie by incorporating musical elements.
There is a number of soundtracks and source music throughout the whole film that manages to create a sense of completeness. Background music is written by a famous composer Howard Shore who is known for winning the Oscar for the Lord of the Rings. His pieces are characterized by “long melodic lines and unmessy orchestration” (Grieving). The same tendency in source music creation can be traced throughout the Mrs. Doubtfire film.
Shore composed approximately ten music pieces for this movie and all of them has numerous similar features in terms of motives and instrumental arrangement. Thus the composer prefers flute, clarinet, piano, and string instruments, sometimes supplemented by the sounds of vibraphone and harp. Such a combination creates an unconstrained atmosphere and evokes corresponding emotions.
Apart from Shore’s music, Mrs. Doubtfire incorporates many popular soundtracks in different styles. The first scene starts with Daniel singing “Largo al Factotum”, an aria by Gioachino Rossini, who works in a studio that produces programs for children. Later, Miranda comes home and observes a shocking party with a lot of mess. Meanwhile, a hip-hop track “Jump Around” by the House of Pain band exactly characterizes the events in the scene.
Children are jumping, and many creatures and festive elements create the atmosphere of a happy birthday. Afterward, Miranda claims that she is tired of such uncontrolled behavior and wants separation. Further actions related to divorce proceedings are followed by the source music “Divorce” by Shore. This piece encompasses the sounds of clarinet, flute, and string instruments.
The next stage in the film concentrates on Daniel’s preparation to become Mrs. Doubtfire. This transformation starts in the workshop of Daniel’s brother where men elaborate on the creation of the appropriate image of a nanny (Mrs. Doubtfire). In the beginning, some kind of Latin or carnival music is present in the scene. When Daniel and his brother are definite about the image of the future Mrs. Doubtfire, Frank Sinatra’s song “Luck Be a Lady Tonight” starts playing. It was written in the 1950s, in the epoch of jazz, so it includes such musical instruments as saxophone, trumpet, and trombone.
When the nanny finally comes into Gillard’s house, the source music “Meeting Mrs. Doubtfire” takes place. Shore focused on the utilization of flute, clarinet, and vibraphone in this piece to emphasize a kind of mystery and uncertainty. When a nanny comes back home, she encounters a social worker that comes for a regular visit. At this moment, “Tea Time with Mrs. Sellner” starts playing and manages to reflect a feeling of disturbance as Daniel needs to manage his two identities and transform from Mrs. Doubtfire to Mr. Hillard. String instruments together with short clarinet chords and sharp vibraphone sound explicitly describe the strained emotional state of the protagonist.
Many music compositions and elements are evident when Mrs. Doubtfire works as a nanny and spends time with children. The first evening when she orders food at the delivery, the music piece “Dinner is Served” creates a peaceful and relaxed atmosphere of happiness with flute and piano mild motives. In the next scene, the nanny plays football with Chris, rides a bicycle with children, cooks, makes cleaning, and reads to Natalie, meanwhile, Aerosmith’s “Dude” song with the lyrics “Do it like a lady” characterizes the actions of the protagonist. This blues-rock composition defines the era of music at the end of the nineteenth century and is associated with the freedom of expression.
The second part of the film is not highly saturated with music compositions. Moreover, most of them evoke melancholy emotions and a sad mood. However, when the family goes to the pool for the rest, Hawaiian motives with traditional ukulele sounds manage to create a relaxed and festive atmosphere. The next long-lasting scene takes place in the restaurant and incorporates ongoing musical background with Shore’s “Bridges Restaurant” composition. It is rather dynamic and appeals to the saturated with events scene where Daniel switches either to his family or Mr. Jonathan Lundy simultaneously. The end of the film encompasses sensitive melodies produced by Shore with the main focus on string instruments, piano, and clarinet.
The main musical theme “Mrs. Doubtfire” is present throughout the entire movie. It consists of mainly flute and string elements. It has long melodic lines and unmessy orchestration typical for Shore’s composition style. This source music manages to create the appropriate atmosphere and supplements the ideas of director Chris Columbus by meaningful emotions and reactions in the scene. According to the recent study, the perception of characters’ emotions is directly dependent on the music elements incorporated in the film (Wakefield 616). Owing to such an effective combination of plot, conversations, and musical background, Mrs.Doubtfire has become of the best films in the history of cinematography.
The film Mrs. Doubtfire depicts the story of Daniel Hillard, who transformed into a nanny because he wanted to spend more time with his children, was produced in 1993. Its director Chris Columbus and composer Howard Shore created a holistic movie where the scenes are appropriately complemented by musical accompaniment. This author prefers using string instruments, clarinet, vibraphone, flute, and piano in melodies.
In addition, the famous rock and hip-hop compositions are used in the film to characterize the actions of the protagonist by utilization of the corresponding lyrics. Overall, a successful combination of the director’s work, actor play, and music background contributed to the positive image of the film.
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Greiving, Tim. “Before He Won Oscars for His Music, Composer Howard Shore Helped Kick off SNL.” The Washington Post. 2016. Web.
Mrs. Doubtfire. Directed by Chris Columbus, 20th Century Fox. 1993.
Wong, Curtis M. “‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ Is about to Become a Broadway Musical.” The Huffington Post. 2018. Web.
Wakefield, Elizabeth M. “The Effects of Diegetic and Nondiegetic Music on Viewers’ Interpretations of a Film Scene.” Music Perception: An Interdisciplinary Journal, vol. 34, no. 5, 2017, pp. 605-623.