You might remember a beautiful piano piece included in From Paris With Love called "Clair de lune," which played as Oliver waited in the lobby for Holly the night they had drinks. Pay close attention during Higher Ground, and it can be heard underneath two particular scenes---as Shane and Oliver walk down Yellow Bird Way toward her home, and when they kiss in the DLO at the end of the film.
Debussy & "Promenade Sentimentale"
Interestingly, this connection is not unlike that which Shane and Oliver share during their actual walk as the pair discusses the instances in which Shane tried to quit the DLO, almost a sentimental connection they share with each other, as its Oliver who, in each instance, manages to convince her to stay. On a larger scale, however, their "walk" will stand in for their evening together as a whole for several reasons I'll expand upon more thoroughly tomorrow, making the piece an even more perfect fit.
But first, there's one more interesting and even deeper connection between the origins of this piece and Higher Ground that must be made.
The Poetry Of Verlaine
As for most things, inspiration has to come from somewhere, "Promenade Sentimentale," or "Claire de lune" as it eventually came to be known, was, indeed, inspired by something---the poetry of Paul Verlaine. In particular, a poem entitled "Clair de lune." It's a very interesting poem that, translated from the French says everything and nothing at the same time. You can read several translations online (including the original French) but here it is in English:
Where charming masqueraders and bergamaskers go
Playing the lute and dancing and almost
Sad beneath their fanciful disguises.
All sing in a minor key
Of victorious love and the opportune life,
They do not seem to believe in their happiness
And their song mingles with the moonlight,
With the still moonlight, sad and beautiful,
That sets the birds dreaming in the trees
And the fountains sobbing in ecstasy,
The tall slender fountains among marble statues.
Paul Verlaine, 1869
Because this poetry inspired the score "Clair de lune," which underlies our story in Higher Ground, it will require a little interpretation of the poem itself in order to understand how everything ties together.
Overall, there's a general consensus that this particular poem carries with it an almost surreal, melancholic mood as it attempts to reflectively describe "a person's soul or innermost being." It starts off by describing the soul as a "landscape"---like a garden, another theme in Higher Ground---which seems to attract interesting distractions that, for all their fanfare (lutes and dancing), seem empty somehow, singing of love and happiness, yet knowing not of it, in a sense. On the other hand, it could be that they believe the "victorious love and the opportune life" for others and not themselves. All of these conditions are overseen by a moon which, in the final stanza, seems to absorb all of the emptiness, doubt and unbelief of the first two stanzas, reflecting back something full, detailed, and quietly beautiful when taken together (birds dreaming, fountains sobbing). It's perspective achieved only when viewed from "higher ground" perhaps?
Based on this interpretation, which also finds me equating Shane to the "tall, slender fountain" and Oliver to the "marble statue" it shouldn't be a surprise that the soul described above is collectively each of theirs. Which, despite their melancholic existence on the landscape of life, marked by moments of emptiness, doubt and unbelief in "victorious love and the opportune life," are, in fact, each uniquely beautiful and capable of that which they once perceived out of reach. And, not surprisingly, will find "victorious love and the opportune life" with each other, tied together at the deepest level---their souls.
But what about Holly? Like I mentioned earlier, "Clair de lune" was used in scenes with her, too. I think we'll get a better sense of that if we take a look at the definition of "sentimental." Sentimental is defined as, "of, or prompted by feelings of tenderness, sadness or nostalgia." Holly and Oliver's entire encounter over drinks was characterized by at the very least sadness and nostalgia, recounting how they met and how things fell apart, making it painfully clear how ill-suited they were for each other. At the same time, there was a touch of tenderness in how Holly complimented Oliver on "being [a] hero [when] she needed one." But one thing is inescapable---they are essentially preparing to say goodbye.
When we hear the piece in Higher Ground, we don't know it yet, but after their brief walk down Yellow Bird Way, we're preparing for Shane and Oliver to do the same.
To best understand what it all means and why it matters is only possible by taking a closer look at the scenes in which "Clair de lune" can be heard. Over the next two days we'll be looking specifically at the their walk, and Shane and Oliver's kiss at the end of the film.
Open To Interpretation,
More From This Series:
Part I: A Stroll Through The Score | Part II: The Places We Must Go | Part III: Homecoming