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A Plot Analysis And The Use Of Humor In Rob Reiner's Movie The Princess Bride

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The Balance of Drama and Comedy in the music of The Princess Bride

Much like the tone of the dialog and choreography in the fight scene in The Princess Bride (1987), the music begins dramatic and slowly gets more comedic, yet it maintains a level of suspense throughout. The music begins with a long, high pitched violin note, underscored by a low horn. This creates a feeling of unease which creates a suspenseful feeling for the viewer. Light drums and clicks stretch out the time between sword clangs. As Wesley retaliates, the strings get higher, which heightens the tension. Once they speed up their fighting pace, the music becomes faster and more exciting to match. This carries on for a few minutes as they jab and parry.

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The dynamics of the music rise and fall to allow the dialog to be easily heard. This also works to create dramatic moments after the “zinger” lines ending each verbal volley, by crescendoing the music and bringing back the horns. While most of the sword clangs do not line up with the tempo of the music, a few hefty thrusts on the stairs are underscored by loud, dramatic horn blasts. This keeps the fight both visually and aurally interesting, and makes these thrusts feel more powerful.

Just as Inigo Montoya pushes Westley against the stone wall, the music drops down very quiet, just like it was in the beginning. This signals that the tone has gone from action to suspense, and increases the tension as the audience wonders if Westley will prevail. A loud musical hit comes just after his reveal, assigning importance to this shift in dynamic, and then the mood of the music begins to change.

Trumpets play a regal tune which pulls the scene from suspenseful to fun, thus showing that Westley now controls the scene. At this moment, too, the music becomes more comical. The action and music are choreographed more closely together, such as the music dropping out as swords fly through the air. The music also creates sort of sound effects, such as the whammy sound when Westley’s sword sticks into the ground and the glissandi up and down as he flips through the air. The music falls dramatic again as their fight resumes, but continues to pull in elements of comedic timing. Finally, the music becomes chaotic to match the intensity of the end of the battle, until a final hit punctuates the music when Westley disarms Inigo Montoya.

All in all, the music in this scene does a very good job of matching and enhancing the tone changes throughout the fight, and adds elements of comedy while maintaining suspense.

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