Fighting Wagner with Bach. The Imagery of German Music in the Errol Flynn-movie “Edge of Darkness” (1943)

Paper for the conference "Revisiting Austrian and German Music. From the 'Spring of Nations' to the Cold War" (18.9.21)

In 1943 Warner Bros. studios presented the movie Edge of Darkness starring Ann Sheridan and Errol Flynn, directed by Lewis Milestone. With its traditional story telling the film featured the militant resistance of a small village against the German occupation of Norway. The score was contributed by legendary Franz Waxman who had taken the chance of an invitation to Hollywood in 1935 to escape the persecution of Jewish artists in Nazi Germany. Although he relied on established principles of film music (dedicating two leitmotifs to the Norwegian protagonists), Waxman used the imagery of German music to infuse the conflict about the National-Socialist claiming of German cultural heritage into the musical setting: While in the final scene the main character of SS-officer Hauptmann Koenig is portrayed by a quote from Siegfried’s Tod (associating with the broad horizon of Richard Wagner’s Götterdämmerung), one of the two Norwegian leitmotifs is Johann Sebastian Bach’s chorale A Mighty Fortress is Our God, recalling both the international impact of Lutheran church music and the aggressive nationalization of this melody during the 19th century. The paper presents an extract from the author’s recent book project Music and Resistance. Cultural Defense During the German Occupa-tion of Norway 1940–45.

External References

Datum: 17–18 September 2021

Ort: Institute of Austrian and German Music Research. University of Surrey, England (Online)

Mitwirkende: Michael Custodis