Fractured Reasons and Fractured Reason in I Walked with a Zombie

Authors

  • Michael Lee University of Oklahoma
  • Sarah Reichardt Ellis University of Oklahoma

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/jfm.24720

Keywords:

Roy Webb, LeRoy Antoine, Chopin, doubling, horror films

Abstract

I Walked with a Zombie, a poetic horror film from 1943, enjoys widespread and intense admiration of a sort rarely bestowed on a “B” horror film from the studio era. Robin Wood (2003) sees the film as the genre’s finest and has observed that its treatment of the genre’s signal dichotomy of Superstition vs. Reason results in a series of expressive doublings within the film. This article amplifies Wood’s admiration by examining the film’s approach to music. Its soundtrack features the work of two composers. RKO’s Roy Webb offers the Western perspective of Reason while Haitian musician LeRoy Antoine provides the Caribbean perspective associated with Voodooism. By looking at the musical doublings in the film, this article argues that music functions in the film to further dismantle the posture of Reason. This film, more than any the author can think of from the era, criticizes the colonial project and dismantles the Western notion that any single perspective or explanatory model can lead to a sufficient understanding of human affairs.

References

Bansak, Edmund. 1995. Fearing the dark: The Val Lewton career. Jefferson, NC: MacFarland & Company.

Bordwell, David. 2017. Reinventing Hollywood: How 1940s filmmakers changed movie storytelling. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Bowman, Laura, and Antoine, LeRoy. 1938. The voice of Haiti. New York: Clarence Williams Music.

Buhler, James. 2019. Theories of the soundtrack Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Elferen, Isabella van. 2012. Gothic music: The sound of the uncanny. Cardiff: University Press of Wales.

Fujiwara, Chris. 1998. Jacques Tourneur: The cinema of nightfall. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Gorbman, Claudia. 1987. Unheard melodies: Narrative film music. Bloomington: University of Indiana Press.

Kramer, Lawrence. 1993. Music as cultural practice, 1800–1900. Berkeley: University of California Press.

MacQueen, Scott. 2000. The Val Lewton thrillers. CD liner notes for Roy Webb Music for the Val Lewton Films. Munich: Marco Polo.

Mulvey, Laura. 1975. Visual pleasure in narrative cinema. Screen, Autumn.

Samson, Jim. 1994. Chopin reception: Theory, history, and analysis. Chopin Studies 2, ed. John Rink and Jim Samson, 1-17. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Subotnik, Rose Rosengard. 1991. Developing variations: Style and ideology in western music. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Telotte, J.P. 1985. Dreams of darkness: Fantasy and the films of Val Lewton. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Wood, Robin. 2003. Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan . . . and beyond. New York: Columbia University Press.

Published

2022-12-16

How to Cite

Lee, M., & Reichardt Ellis, S. (2022). Fractured Reasons and Fractured Reason in I Walked with a Zombie. Journal of Film Music, 10(2), 69–80. https://doi.org/10.1558/jfm.24720