Foreground Narrativity in Wright/Marianelli Period Dramas

Open Access
Holder, Amber Jackeline
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Charles Dowell Youmans, Thesis Supervisor
  • Charles Dowell Youmans, Honors Advisor
  • Eric John Mckee, Faculty Reader
  • film music
  • narrativity
  • Dario Marianelli
  • musicology
  • music
This thesis will explore narrativity through leitmotivic technique and semiotic codes in Dario Marianelli’s scores for three literary adaptations: Anna Karenina (dir. Joe Wright, 2012), Pride and Prejudice (Wright, 2005), and Atonement (Wright, 2007). As collaborators, Wright and Marianelli problematize the period drama as escapist entertainment. Traditional period dramas’ overwhelming preoccupation with the portrayal of literary themes (most notably, romantic love), forces filmmakers to gloss over character development and social commentary. With their often flat, poorly drawn characters, period dramas emphasize the progression of dramatic action rather than the realism of the characters’ emotions and motivations. Wright and Marianelli avoid these pitfalls by highlighting the perspective of the narrator in the storytelling. The level of artifice they employ produces a self-reflective quality that continually develops and reexamines characters’ inner workings. Wright and Marianelli remind viewers that they are not experiencing events, but rather a mediated narration. Wright’s characteristic mannerisms (such as extended tracking shots, visual blending of the diegetic and non-diegetic) consistently reinforce an outside narrative presence, centering the experience of watching a film as opposed to being engrossed in its diegesis, and forcing viewers to assess their own perceptions of the characters and situations. Marianelli’s use of self-referential music likewise draws attention to his mediation of the characters’ identity. Marianelli takes well-established semiotic codes (especially regarding gender) and uses them not only to reinforce their commentary on the character, but to establish music’s critical presence in the narrative and its larger thematic implications.