In his first feature film "Xiao Wu" (小武 1997) director Jia Zhangke (贾樟柯) comes up with a very unconventional way of using a leitmotif (an associated musical theme that accompanies the reappearance of an idea, person, or situation). The director chooses to use only diegetic source-connected sound, that is to say the sound originates from on object on the screen: We hear the leitmotif – Ludwig van Beethoven's Bagatelle No. 25 (commonly known as "Für Elise") – as the protagonist Xiao Wu makes use of a lighter which is part of the film world.
Considering that Xiao Wu is a pickpocket the choice to use part of Ludwig van Beethoven's most popular composition as an associated musical theme is actually quite fitting: The protagonist's leitmotif is easily identified as a "stolen melody" – played back from a stolen lighter.
Leitmotifs are usually transformable and recur in different guises throughout the piece in which they occur. That is not the case in Jia Zhangke's feature film "Xiao Wu". Throughout the film the protagonist does not "change his tune" – the tune as the frame of mind, the general attitude he demonstrates. That is to say he does not change his manner or alter his attitude in any way. He quite literally plays the same old song and dance (chinese idiom 老调重弹 – lit. to play the same old tune) and in the end he has to live by the consequences of his own actions (chinese idiom 弦而鼓之 – lit. to tune one's zither then play it; fig. to live by the consequences of one's actions).
Language: Chinese | Subtitles: English
For study purposes only.