Great brass chords: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

As evil Walter Donovan (evil, therefore played by British actor Julian Glover, although sporting an atrocious American accent) dips what he thinks is the carpenter’s cup, the cup of Christ from the Last Supper, into the font, he believes he is about to gain eternal life. In reverential tones, he declares  ‘This certainly is the cup of the King of Kings.’

As he dips the shimmering cup into the clear water, a wonderful brass chord is struck in the orchestral soundtrack (1’41” in the clip below).

(Excuse the fact that this clip is dubbed in Spanish: it’s the only instance of the music I could find on-line. It adds an interesting dimension…).

It’s a terrific moment: the chord combines a sense of anticipation (Donovan about to drink and become immortal – boo, hiss…) with a looming sense of dread; the glance that Elsa and Indy exchanged as she gave Donovan the cup she had chosen – was that significant ? Does she know something about the cup she picked – is it the wrong one ? And if so – what will be the consequences ? Is something dreadful about to happen ?

It’s almost that chord from Stravinsky’s Symphonies of Wind Instruments – here’s the great Edo de Waart conducting the Rotterdam Philharmonic – the chord occurs fourteen seconds into the clip.

The use of the brass is a wonderful touch, the texture of the chord directly mirroring the nature of the cup from which Donova drinks, and the uncomfortable harmony weighty with foreboding. John Williams: genius.

%d bloggers like this: