By A.J. Serrano
Music may be universal but it also Paramount, Fox and Warner Bros. Or, at least “In the Hall of the Mountain King” is all these things. That is the only logical explanation for the presence of Edvard Grieg’s bombastic orchestration in nearly every movie preview cut in the last twenty years.
You know the tune. The mischievous plucks of the cello. The escalating tempo. The violent cymbal crashes. The song is bold and exhilarating, a fine piece of musical composition that easily stands alone from Hollywood’s visuals. That is, if Hollywood would allow it to stand alone.
Filmmakers seem to have mistaken this song for a fresh can of play-do. They mold it into whatever form they think will best help sell their movie, regardless of that film’s genre. In the past few years alone I have heard this song used to varying degrees of success in countless previews of everything from the smallest indie films to mega budget epics. Case in point:
Corpse Bride (2005): A stop-motion-animated tale about a bumbling Victorian bachelor who accidentally marries a rotten corpse. To be fair, Tim Burton and “Mountain King” are a perfect match.
Man on Wire (2008): A documentary about a Frenchman who tight-rope walks across the tops of the two World Trade Center buildings. A segment of the song was used in the film.
The Social Network (2010): A drama about the founding of Facebook. The song was digitally re-imagined by Oscar winning composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross and used in one of the best film scenes of 2010.
Bride Wars (2009): A comedy about two best friends who schedule their weddings on the same day. Apparently nothing goes better than “Mountain King” and the screeching bickering of bridezillas.
American Animal (2012): An indie flick about a twenty-something eccentric slacker who goes berserk after finding out that his roommate has landed a new job.
To be clear, I’m all for a filmmaker experimenting with classic songs as long as they take on a new life in the film. When it is done well the results can be breathtaking. The use of “Singin’ in the Rain” in Clockwork Orange, “Misirlou” in Pulp Fiction, “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow” in O Brother Where Art Thou? and “Bohemian Rhapsody” in Wayne’s World are just a few prime examples.
But for the most part, “In the Hall of the Mountain King” has become a crutch for trailer makers. It is a tall task to differentiate your film from another by using a song that is already loaded with the diverse imagery of French trapeze artists, rotten corpses and spoiled brides. Pretty soon “Mountain King” will go the way of “Macho Man” and “Hoe-Down”and turn into a complete parody of its former self.
His work is done. It’s time to let the mountain king slumber.