Tuesday, 9 October 2012

cogitens in motus pictura I

    Over-Dramatized?  Use Imagination Instead!

     Peter and the Wolf: A story of a boy with an interesting sense of adventure and courage. When Prokofiev composed this piece in Russia in 1936, the country was still known as the USSR. Despite the label of the country, Prokofiev was able to compose music for the express purpose of telling a story.
     In 1995, Affirm Films decided to produce a short motion picture with animation to go along with Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf, with the music performed by the RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra (conducted by James Daugherty). The film differs minutely from the actual story, although the main point of the film was to put animation of a story with Prokofiev's music.
     The story takes place in Russia, where a young boy named Peter plays out in the meadow on a beautiful spring morning. He is joined by a duck, a bird, and his cat, but the fun is stopped all too soon, as his grandfather comes out and scolds him; for if a wolf should come out of the forest, Peter would be in great danger. Peter follows him back to the house, but sneaks out later when the Grandfather falls asleep again. Then what should appear out of the forest except the big, gray, wolf? After seeing the wolf terrorize the cat, snap at the bird, and swallow the duck whole, Peter asks the bird to distract the wolf, who, after being teased, becomes quite tired and falls asleep. Peter then takes a rope and slips it around the wolf's tail, in order to capture him. The wolf wakes up, and after a struggle, hunters come out of the forest. Grandfather comes out, scolds Peter, but realizes his grandson is a brave boy. Every character begins a procession, and the wolf is taken to the Zoo.                                             
     The beginning of the film is best, because it was simply the scenes of nature; the mountains, springs, meadows, hills, and flowers in the breeze. Peter's theme, which employs the strings of the orchestra, was used in a variation that introduced the beauty and beckoning of Spring and the meadow.  The acting, however, as it was slightly over-dramatic. It was indeed a small production, as the three actors also supplied all the voicing for the film, which also added an interesting collective flow. However, it differed in some details. In the original story by Prokofiev, the bird is a male, and the duck is a female who does not survive being swallowed by the monstrous wolf. In the film, the bird is a female with a nest of young ones, and the duck is an odd male who escapes from the wolf's stomach, dancing ridiculously while making ballet look hideous.  Apart from these differences, the animation was rough for 1995, (after comparing it to Pixar's Toy Story 1 or even Aladdin, which was released in 1992) perhaps because Affirm Films did not have commendable staff such as Steve Jobs or Disney behind the animation. 
     Although the film should not be placed in a person's category of favorites, attentions should be paid to this piece. The music impacted the film in many ways: First and foremost, each character had a theme from the orchestra. Peter is represented by all the strings in a carefree, joyful, major theme; the flute is for the bird, who flits and flies across the meadow, around the pond, and up into the tree; the duck is easily recognized by the oboe; the cat by the clarinet; and the seemingly grumpy grandfather by the bassoon. The terrible wolf's character is enhanced by three french horns, while the hunters are represented by the kettle and bass drums. In essence, because the story was written and the music performed to fit the plot, each theme flows with the main story, creating an interesting tale to introduce one to the orchestra, and no character was the worse off for having a theme for their personality. Even though the film watered down the death of the duck, changed the bird from a male to a female, and over-dramatized some of the actors and actresses lines, the music rings true, it can defend itself. Peter and the Wolf really does not need visuals to perform the story. All that is necessary is an appropriate voice for a narrator, and the themes and music of Peter and the Wolf can play on the greatest stage of all: Your own imagination.

A film review written a bit ago. I do, however, digress from this to simply say there is one version that seems it could enhance the musical story.  I dare to dream.
The 2006 British/Polish/Norwegian co-produced film

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