Film Score Friday: Empire of the Sun

Welcome to a new segment called Film Score Friday! This is something fun that we are adding to our homeschool “curriculum.” (We don’t use a curriculum.) I am a lover of films and soundtracks and scores. And having a family that loves both music and movies is the perfect opportunity to learn how it all fits together.

I thought, “Maybe, we can learn how a film score is made and added into the film.” Then it really started to sound like work. Instead, I remembered last year how we learned about different composers every Friday…and it was actually fun and interesting! So, I’m going to blog about our weekly lessons.

I will TRY MY HARDEST to make sure that every. single. lesson. is not about John Williams. Or James Horner. Or Danny Elfman. However, I can’t help that they are amazing film score composers, so expect to see a LOT of their work featured!

So, our first Film Score Friday is…

Director: Steven Spielberg
Composer: John Williams

This is my first lesson, because this was the first movie I can remember when just hearing the film score made me feel so emotional. The track I want to highlight is “Cadillac of the Skies.”

The movie is about a boy named Jim (played by Christian Bale), whose British family is living in China when Japan invades. My favorite scene takes place during 1945. Jim has been separated from his parents and is now in a Japanese internment camp. One morning, an American P-51 Mustang aircraft attacks the Japanese base next to the camp. While everyone is seeking cover, Jim climbs to the top of a pagoda and screams with joy, “P-51! Cadillac of the Skies!” (We saw earlier in the film that Jim had a toy P-51, and he ran back through the massive crowd to retrieve it when the Japanese invaded. So, we know how symbolic this is.) The music builds with Jim’s amazement atop the pagoda. A British doctor interned in the camp runs up to get Jim, then the music pulls back as Jim breaks down in tears as he realizes he cannot remember what his parents look like.

There is so much that ties this scene to Jim’s life before the invasion. The real version of his toy plane. The doctor who serves as a father figure. And we recall that Jim was known amongst his parents’ friends to know a lot about military aircrafts. Seeing a real-life P-51 in action is a dream come true for Jim. You could only assume that he wanted to share this moment with his father. Then the realization that he has experienced so much at such a young age that now he was unable to recall his parents’ faces.

Add the amazing film score and just stab me in the heart. What we hear is serene and beautiful, but what we see are explosions and tragedy. I can listen to “Cadillac of the Skies” and feel every emotion that I experienced when realizing how Jim has lost his youth in his struggle to survive. How his forced maturity chipped away at his memories of happier times.

There are so many more beautiful pieces of this film score. The opening scene with “Suo Gan” really sets up the story. The final scene reprises “Suo Gan” to bring it full circle. It bookends the turmoil that happens in between in such a perfect way!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s