Opera Meets Film: How ‘Promising Young Woman’ & ‘Tristan und Isolde’

Written By The Wagnerian on Sunday, 14 February 2021 | 3:03:00 pm

We enjoyed this. Suggested.

Opera Meets Film” is a feature dedicated to exploring the way that opera has been employed in cinema. We will select a film section or a film in its entirety and highlight the impact that utilizing the operatic form or sections from an opera can alter our perception of a film that we are viewing. This week’s instalment features Emerald Fennell’s debut feature “Promising Young Woman.”
SPOILERS AHEAD

In “Promising Young Woman,” Cassie (Carrie Mulligan), embarks on a mission to exact revenge on the people that destroyed the life of her best friend Nina.

She has four people in her crosshairs, including her former best friend Madison, the Med School Dean, the lawyer who made her friend withdraw her case, and the guy who raped her.

She targets the women first, forcing them into pained realities of what it feels like to doubt the words of another woman who has been hurt by a man.

It takes a toll on her.

And after toying with Dean Walker, we cut to a scene in which she’s stopped in the middle of the road, drained. A car starts beeping at her, followed by a slew of profanities coming from the male driver, who stops right next to her to continue the verbal assault.

At this moment, we start hearing the climactic buildup of the famed “



Liebestod” from Wagner’s “Tristan und Isolde.” And at that moment, Cassie snaps.

She gets out of her car, grabs an iron bar, and dishes some mayhem on the car, destroying its lights and then windshield, Wagner’s immortal music ascending in tension toward its inevitable climax.

The scene ends with the guy running off in his damaged car and Cassie standing in the intersection with Wagner’s music finally finding its harmonic climax and resolution.

It’s one of the most dynamic visual moments in the film, the camera following and circling Cassie in extended takes. It’s glorious mayhem, matched only by Wagner’s equally thrilling music.