Unfinished Symphony in One Wonderful Sunday by Kurosawa



In the final sequence of One Wonderful Sunday (1947) by Akira Kurosawa, two main characters expect to hear the Unfinished Symphony of Schubert by only dreaming of it. The magical existence of the music as an art is displayed with the characters’ dream-like perception of it. In my paper, I want to emphasize on three topics on the effect of the music in the final sequence of the film: the contribution of the symphony to sustaining the diegesis and breaking of it, the intense emotions that the music carries, and the impossibility of complete silence in film. In these terms, representation of the fascination by music takes an extraordinary form.

The music is diegetic until the last minute of the scene. It is diegetic since it is the object of desire both for the audience and the characters, and both of them hear it at the same time. The audience will hear the music only if the characters could hear it. The unheard symphony, therefore, increases the audience’s identification with the characters, it brings the audience to the same place as the characters, and strengthens the diegesis of the film. On the other hand, it could have been said that the music is non-diegetic since the beginning, for even if the audience is able to hear the music, the orchestra and therefore the symphony does not really exist in the plot. However, in the narrative of the film, the importance of dreaming is given with the words of the character. In fact, the sole question is whether both characters could manage to dream the music. The desire of hearing the Unfinished Symphony leads the characters to break the continuity of the diegesis. Masako speaks to the audience and begs help, and suddenly the identification becomes demolished. We as the audience understand that if we can dream of the music and therefore can hear it, the characters will also hear it. After this alienation effect, we hear the tuning up and then the introduction of the symphony. The facial expressions of the characters also indicate that they hear it as well. At the last minute, the music shifts from diegetic to non-diegetic, since Yuzo stops conducting but the music continues to be perceived by the audience.

The emotion that the music itself reveals is very strong at first: the violin gets stronger with crescendo and the flute balances it with calm. The violin gives the impression of fearing a coming storm. The emotion of the sequence is parallel to the music: it rises with the fear and anxiety of Yuzo, and Masako consistently makes an effort to calm him. The desire of the characters for the music also proves that the music stands for intense emotions. As I mentioned above, the main topic of the sequence is whether the characters could hear the music. However, hearing is not simply dreaming in the sequence. Yuzo is anxious since he is afraid that his wife is not able to hear the orchestra he conducts. Hearing the same silent music represents sharing the same fragile emotions by the two even if they have difficulties in seeing each other: if they are able to hear the inexistent symphony, then they are able to survive with their love and understanding despite all the impossibilities.

Last thing that worths being emphasized is that the impossibility of silence in film. The moments of the sequence without the music are not silent: it is full of the sound of steps, the dialogues, the leaves, and most importantly full of the music that the audience and the characters continually dream of. Even before the actual music starts to play, the spectators produce the music in their own minds since they expect it to play in the plot. All of these make the sequence successful way in indicating that the audience can never experience the film in complete silence.

The sequence supplies the intense feeling of love, desire, anxiety, and fear at the same time with the help of both the presence and the absence of the music. Waiting for the music triggers the excitement in the audience and presence of it gives the relief that love brings. Additionally, the magical entity of the music is displayed successfully with the notion of dream and it’s representation as the “capable of creating new worlds”, which is very similar to what music provides.

Article by Asya Alıcı

The amphitheater scene in the film: 

"Subarashiki Nichiyobi" (1947) - Amphitheater Scene from Tsukihana on Vimeo.



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