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How do music and silence create hope and alienation in „Shadows in Paradise“?
The melancholic comedy “Shadows in Paradise” is a about a lonely and odd dustman who falls in love with a unhappy cashier. Both are alienated from the cold world of social discrimination and unemployment where they cannot find their place. The film starts with presenting the weekday of the main person Nikander and his fellow dustman and is emphasized with a soft and slow music that is always played in the same style, rhythm and tempo. Just as the music does not change by becoming faster or more energetic the job of the dustmen is shown as being always the same and having the same “melody of life”.
In the next scene Nikander, with his arm bleeding, meets the cashier Ilona in the supermarket for the first time where she gives him a band-aid for his arm. This is underlined by music that might well fit into a gloomy and lonely bar, and so it might already foreshadow that the relationship between Nikander and Ilona will as well be as melancholic and also as depressing as this music. Another scene where music evokes the feeling of melancholy is after Ilona has been told that there is no hotel room for her. This creates a certain pity in the viewer even though one would like to tell her that she should not give up so fast. Moreover, there is a scene when Ilona and her chef are in a restaurant where Nikander and she were not allowed to go. The sad and heavy music emphasizes the irony of life by stressing that, now that she could become respected with the help of her well-off chef who could introduce her into society, she prefers her role of an unhappy person, probably because she got too much used to it and likes to suffer.
In two scenes either Ilona or Nikander are in a discotheque or in a club with disco music that is always rather energetic and cheerful, while they themselves are either apathetic or disappointed. First of all, the fact that the music is so much contrasted to the main persons’ feelings shows the sad reality of life, namely that they are alone and nobody pays attention to them. It seems as if the music is the people in the disco who are happily dancing and having fun while Ilona and Nikander might even die and no one would realize. Secondly, the contrasting music indicates that both refuse to participate in life and are full of selfpity because they do only observe the “scene of life” in which they are unable to play. Another style of music counterpointing the drama is when Nikander listens to a swing record that he found at the dump after Ilona has left him. The text that goes “My baby don’t love me no more” as well as the melody itself create an atmosphere of absurdity being still underlined by Nikander’s black sunglasses and his statement that he is psychologically ill. This does not create pity in the viewer but it makes him smile a little so that Nikander becomes a kind of comical figure.
In another scene, when Nikander meets with Melartin after both have been released from custody, the softly played piano in the background might indicate the soft ties of friendship that are about to be knotted.
What strikes, too, is that there are several scenes where music is replaced by silence. For example, after Ilona’s and Nikander’s first date in a bingo parlour she tells him that they will have no future together, which is why he goes home and drinks which is underlined by complete silence. This silence, as well as the fact that Nikander clears up the table with his hands so that everything falls on the floor accentuates his frustration and also his inner emptiness because he apparently has lost the woman he liked so much. Another example is when Ilona and Nikander lay each in their own hotel bed after having eaten together in a restaurant. The rooms are both dark and the only sound one hears is the sinister and howling wind. This natural phenomenon could take the role of a superior being – probably God – who complaints about the persons’ incapability to stop suffering. One last example showing silence is a scene where Nikander, after having returned from work earlier than planned, and Ilona, after having taken a shower, kiss each other. She asks why he is already at home whereupon he replies that it is his home and afterwards they kiss each other without any passion. The silence in this scene indicates that both have actually no feelings or that their feelings are already dead, which is shown by the absence of music actually expressing emotions.
In addition to music that either presents the negative feelings of the persons or that counterpoints the drama there is also radio music playing exclusively songs that are happy and positive. First of all, after Ilona has been dismissed from work she visits Nikander to drive to the country whereupon he tells her that he has to visit his friend before. On the way to Melartin both listen to the radio that plays cheerful music that is like some kind of hope for at least Ilona, because it seems to be evident that it was Ilona who choose the radio station, since only she, who has often her little radio with her, listens to such hope creating songs that we hear in a few scenes. Another scene where Nikander and Ilona are sitting on the beach and finally kissing each other while the radio next to them plays a happy song, could be an indication that both can, at least for a short time, flee from the loneliness they feel because the music gives them a little hope that they can be happy together. Radio music is something that links people to each other which means it is something that everybody might listen to in this very moment, and so Ilona and Nikander are, for a short period, exactly like the others and not alienated from the world. A last example is when Nikander, for the very first time, listens in the radio to fast guitar music without the presence of Ilona. He sits in his car, after having brought back the stolen cashbox to the supermarket, and it seems as if he feels that he has accomplished something “heroic” and that he has enhanced himself by this since he is not only a dustman anymore. A different interpretation would be that Nikander did simply not change the radio channel Ilona has tuned before, in order to get involved in positive emotions the radio might evoke.
After Nikander remarks that life is too hard alone, he decides to go away together with Ilona so that he can live with another alienated person who might understand him. When the last song with the message that one should hurry up not to be alone is played, Nikander and Ilona are on a boat in order to leave Helsinki. They might think that by leaving the city that has made them to strangers and outsiders, they will finally be able to lead a different life, far away from their past. But the melody of the music stresses the irony and shows that they will probably never be happy, no matter where they are, because their melancholy is already too deep inside their hearts.
One can conclude by saying that Ilona and Nikander appear to have a quite fatalistic attitude towards life. Their motionless and stony expressions and their lack of body language indicate that both see no use in being happy since life will surely end one day which is why it will have been no good for them, because they have only meaningless jobs and soon everybody will have forgotten that they have existed. If they were teachers, for example, they could at least pass on their knowledge to others and will not so fast get in oblivion. But they will stay strangers in a world that is full of dull, dehumanizing labour and social indifference where every attempt to become happy would be useless, because it would be a waste of too much energy. In “Shadows in Paradise” music becomes either an ironic observer, an empathetic friend or an optimistic glimmer of hope, although the viewer is not completly convinced if he should pity the characters or rather only observe them and their comical chaos, since the story lacks sentimentality and shows slapstick situations in which one stays often as motionless as the characters themselves.
- Quote paper
- Hanna M. Stoll (Author), 2005, How do music and silence create hope and alienation in SHADOWS IN PARADISE?, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/109897