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Bounty, The (1984)
Notes in the folder
by a soundtrack collector
(December 20, 2006)
Acclaimed director David Lean was researching a film on the life of Captain Cook when he stumbled upon Richard Hough’s revisionist documentation fo the classic « Mutiny on the Bounty ». Unlike the well-known novel by Nordhoff and Hall, Captain Bligh and Mr. Christian related the story of a courageous but repressed William Bligh and compassionate but unstable friend, Fletcher Christian. Lean found the account to be vastly more interesting than that of the comparatively straightforward Cook and proposed to make not one, but two feature-length motion pictures on the subject. Scripted by Lean long time associate Robert Bolt and starring Anthony Hopkins and Christopher Reeve in the respective leads, « The Law Breakers » and « The Long Arm » were to begin production in the autumn of 1977. The films were not be.
A series of setbacks, not least of which included an escalating budget and Bolt’s severe heart attack, cause Lean to leave the project in the hands of his new producer, Dino De Laurentiis. Having invested four million dollars on the construction of a full-scale replica of the Bounty, De Laurentiis was eager to continue and forged ahead with the production, now as a television mini-series with Alan Bridges as director. Eventually Paramount, the studio at the time, reneged on its commitment, citing the notion that the predominantly male cast would alienate a large percentage of the female television-watching audience.
It was almost two years before « The Bounty » emerged in its final form : a single feature film script rewritten by Robert Bolt, financed by Orion Pictures and with the last-minute addition of Australian director Roger Donaldson who had been hired away from another De Laurentiis production, « Conan the Destroyer ». After the serious consideration of Jeremy Irons and then Sting for the role of Fletcher Christian, Mel Gibson joined Hopkins in the prestigious cast that now included Daniel Day-Lewis, Liam Neeson, Edward Fox and Sir Laurence Olivier.
While the film was critically well-received upon its debut in the summer of 1984, its score by Vangelis was attacked as being « wildly inappropriate » for such a period film as this one. The electronic composer was known for the Academy Award-winning « Chariots of Fire » and, more recently, by « Missing » and « Blade Runner ». He was chosen to fill the gap left by Maurice Jarre, who had departed in the early stages of pre-production. Upon examination, Vangelis’s score is amazingly complex with character motifs interplaying in a structure which runs parallel to the action on the screen. Rhythmic synthesizer represent Bligh, the ship and the rigid order of naval life while more lush, acoustic orchestrations are used for Fletcher, the island and the free will of the natives and crew. As with his music for « Blade Runner », Vangelis suggested the natural sounds as a part of his score : wind, waves, tribal drums and ship’s bells among others. This style of composition was repeated in his later ocean-themed films, « 1492 : Conquest of Paradise » and « Bitter Moon », but the complexity of the score and the revolutionary use of synthesizers in a period epic make « The Bounty » one of the most intriguing examples electronic film scoring to date.
1.- Main Title – 04 :13
On Disc One, the opening title sequence firmly establishes the approach took in scoring this film. A foreboding theme starts nearly a full minute before any image appears on the screen and is then played out against a series of picturesque shots of calm ocean, sky and island. As the sea is juxtaposed with the land, so the music contrasts the pounding bass of Bligh’s Theme with the more tranquil motif of Fletcher Christian. It is interesting to note the similarities between this piece and the title theme composed by Maurice Jarre for Roger Donaldson’s next film : « No Way Out ».
2.- The Trial of Lt. William Bligh – 02 :20
One aspect of the story that differs from previous renderings lies in its being told in flashbacks from Bligh’s court marshal. Indeed, Hough’s source novel begins with the actual mutiny and then relates the events that led up to it. A nervous William Bligh is driven to the Court of the Admiralty and awaits their summons while this synthesized military drum beat echoes in the distance. Sir Laurence Olivier in the role of the Lord High Admiral completed all of this filming in one day.
3.- 23rd December 1787 – 02 :49
After weeks of delay H.M.S. Bounty sets sail two days before Christmas. As the ship’s sails are unfurled, the music swells to accompany her onto the open sea. Vangelis’s use of piano and electric harp to represent the ocean wind was repeated in his score for « 1492 »
4.- The Water Is Wide – 04 :20
The crew settles in for the long voyage ahead, but not without incident. Seaman Chruchill is established to be a bully as he brawls with two of the other men abroad. To hide the noise of the disturbance from the ship’s officers, the crew strikes up a song. « The Water Is Wide » is an authentic Eighteenth Century folksong, as are all of the shanteys used in the film, and was recorded prior to principal photography for on-set playback. The traditional songs are performed on a period fiddle by Barry Dransfield, who also portrayed the blind fiddler, Byrn, in the film.
5.- First Day At Sea – 01 :45
At the end of the first day at sea, Captain Bligh begins the ship’s log that will serve as the narrative of the film. Seaman Adams and young Midshipman Heywood stand watch on deck and reflect on their lives before the journey. The underscoring is slow and somewhat sad, denoting an introspective time for the crew. The same music is used later in the film, after the mutiny when Fletcher Christian initiates his own log and begins to consider that he never again return to England.
6.- Bonnie Kate – 02 :03
Bligh relates to the Court that his commitment to the good health of his crew included an hour of dancing on deck by all hands for physical and emotional stimulation. On one instance, however, an argument between two of the men and the tyrannical First Officer Mr. Pryer leads to the first instance of punishment aboard the Bounty. Though this traditional song is truncated by the disturbance in the film, it is included here in its entirety. It is also used again, albeit briefly, when Churchill forces Mr. Pryer to dance at gunpoint during the mutiny.
7.- Cape Horn – 08 :39
The initial calm at Cape Horn is soon broken by a violent storm, typical of the region, which batters the ship for thirty-three days. Bligh shows himself to be an effective commander under the worst of conditions and Fletcher Christian proves his own bravery by rescuing a crewman hanging from the mast. This cue matches the action of the sea throughout the episode and echoes the huge waves crashing over the Bounty’s deck.
8.- Memories of Home – 01 :15
Having failed in the attempt to round Cape Horn, Captain Bligh writes a letter to his wife explaining that the ship will turn about and sail for the Cape of Good Hope. Fletcher attempts to console his friend, while Bligh downplays the importance of circumnavigating the globe. The accompanying music, a variation of « First Day at Sea », reveals his feelings of defeat.
9.- Bligh’s Fury – 01 :31
Bligh addresses the crew, informing them that Mr. Christian will replace Mr. Fryer as First Officer. When Fryer attempts to leave the assembly without being dismisses and then questions the Captain’s orders, the men bear witness to Bligh’s wrath. Mr. Pryer is humiliated before the crew and the music seems to strike him like the Captain’s words, then thrums with the anger and unrest building among the officers and men.
10.- Burial at See and « Land-Ho » - 03 :12
As result of sickness and lack of proper medical attention, Seaman Valentine dies and is buried at sea. The crew’s spirits are at a low ebb, but it is not long before land is sighted and the Bounty drops anchor in Matavai Bay. The original shooting script shows two additional scenes relative to Valentine’s death : the first when the drunken ship doctor accidentally opens an artery of Valentine’s and Fletcher administers a makeshift tourniquet, the second after the burial as Bligh accuses Dr. Huggan of mistreatment. The doctor claims that the disease was the cause of Valentine’s demise and the Captain insists that a thorough inspection of the crew take place so as not to infect the natives upon reaching Tahiti. The beginning of this cue accompanies the ceremony of Valentine’s burial and is played on Burn’s fiddle. The latter portion is played over Bligh’s writing in his journal and as the ship arrives at the island. Here the ship’s bell rings out with the crew’s joy and the electronic harp marks the descent of the Bounty’s anchor into the bay.
11.- The Natives of Tahiti – 01 :36
The hosts of the island people sail out to welcome the Bounty to Tahiti, or Otahiti as it was known at the time. The ship returns the greeting by firing a series of salutes from one of the canons. The music in this track, and in all of the traditional Indian pieces, was recorded by the production’s sound department while on location. Very similar music was used in the 1962 film, « Mutiny on the Bounty ».
12.- Longboat approach – 03 :06
Captain Bligh and his landing party make the rip from their ship in the island accompanied by hundreds of well-wishing Tahitians rowing and swimming alongside their longboats. At the director’s request, this scene was re-shot a total of five times over a month-long period. Only the middle portion of this cue is used in the film, and while it is another traditional piece, its rhythmic beat emphasises the formality and order of the British Navy even in this tropical setting.
13.- Drowsy Maggie – 01 :35
In another traditional see shantey, the men and natives dance on the deck of the Bounty. Having exchanged pleasantries with Tynah, king of the island, Bligh is presented to a large native woman as a gift. In a rare comic moment between the two friends, Fletcher interrupts the « ceremony » with a pre-arranged excuse for the Captain : « The ship is sinking, sir. ». « Good ! » replies Bligh, making a hasty exit.
14.- Ritual – 03 :04
The Bounty’s mission is cultivated breadfruit plants for transport to Jamaica underway, the officers and men witness a Tahitian ritual that includes the complying of native men and women to arouse the gods of fertility. In relating this incident to the court, Bligh indicates that this was the point at which the seeds of discontent were planted amongst the crew. « It was the place itself » he tells the Admiralty. The piece is derivative of « Longboat Approach », but is something darker and more violent in tone.
15.- Forbidden Love – 08 :42
The crew of the Bounty adjusts to their newfound paradise, but Fletcher and Bligh start to grow apart and Fletcher begins his relationship with Mauatua, the king’s daughter. A montage follows, which shows the crew’s activities. One aspect of the film that bears mentioning here is the implied, but undocumented possibility of a homosexual relationship between Captain Bligh and Fletcher Christian. Early versions of Bolt’s screenplay strongly suggests such a possibility ; this is the principal reason for Christopher Reeve’s departure from the production, but the idea appears to have been toned down in later drafts. The music track is itself of three separate elements. The first is a native drum beat interspersed with deep, pounding synthesizer chords that accompany Fletcher and his new love. The next is another shantey, « A Sailor on the Sea », recorded with the film cast on location as the crewmen relax and celebrate. The final element is a variation of « Main Titles », this time emphasising the synth-based Bligh’s Theme as the Captain lies awake in the dark of his ship’s cabin.
16.- My Young Love – 03 :39
Weeks become months for the crew on Tahiti and a small number led by Seaman Churchill make the decision to desert the Bounty and stay on the island paradise. The fiddler plays this song while the men make it known that they will leave the ship during Midshipman Heywood’s watch that night. The entire shantey is played out here, while only the instrumental portion was used in the film.
17.- To Fletcher, A Wife – 00 :48
The same day, Fletcher is summoned by King Tynah who tells him that Mauatua is carrying his child. The king is aware that the Bounty will soon leave the island, but proclaims the couple as man and wife and tells Fletcher that a part of him will always remain on Tahiti. It is in this brief cue that Fletcher’s Theme, a thoughtful and delicate motif, emerges on its own away from the Main Titles, just as Fletcher has separated himself from Bligh and the Bounty.
18.- Deserters – 05 :03
Captain Bligh assembles the crew on deck the next morning to announce that the desertion has occurred. It is at this point that he starts to become the dictatorial Bligh of well-known literature and orders all but the essential land personal to be confined to the ship, which will set sail in one’s week time. The music here is a series of sharp notes that foreshadow the madness that is to follow.
19.- Native Dance – 01 :07
The Captain returns to the island to confront Christian about the desertion. Feeling betrayed by his friend, Bligh begins to hurl insults at Fletcher and the natives. Fletcher responds initially by defying Bligh and refusing to return to the ship. He eventually recants, but not before the argument it witnessed by Mr. Young, one of the more conniving officers of the Bounty. The dance, the last of the traditional Tahitian songs used in the film, is played in the background at the breadfruit plantation and serves to aggravate Bligh throughout the argument.
20.- A Last Night Together – 02 :16
On the eye of the Bounty’s departure from Tahiti, Fletcher steals back to the island to bid farewell to Mauatua where she persuades him to spend one last night with her. This piece is a slower, romantic variation on Fletcher’s Theme and is reprised four times in the film, as the ship leaves Tahiti, twice as the homeward-bound Fletcher remembers his lost love and again when the mutineers return to Tahiti and King Tynah realises he will never see his daughter again.
21.- Alternate Titles – 11 :09
Disc Two begins with an alternate version of « The Bounty »’s main title theme. This one is more staccato in its use of synthesizers and lacks any trace of the piano heard in the film’s opening sequence. While the cue was composed as title music, a small portion of it is used when the deserters are flogged before frightened, waiting natives.
22.- Bligh’s Madness – 01 :33
With the Bounty again at sea, Bligh’s treatment of the crew and Mr. Christian in particular deteriorates rapidly. Screaming orders and insults, the Captain’s apparent retaliation for Fletcher’s and the men’s behaviour on the island comes to a climax when he announces that they will again to round Cape Horn on the homeward voyage. The helmsman, Adams, voices the crew’s dissent and disbelief, and Bligh orders his punishment for cowardice. This track is similar to « Deserters » and is even more aggressive. A quick series of notes, sounding almost like breaking glass, appears as Bligh is challenged by Adams. During this sequence, actor Anthony Hopkins is often seen in extreme close-up, accentuating the tirades of a sweaty, spit-spewing and vengeful Captain Bligh.
23.- Mutiny on the Bounty – 04 :22
With prodding from Mr. Young, Fletcher makes the decision to take the ship early the next morning. Bligh is held at gunpoint and brought on to the deck where, against the wishes of the other mutineers, Fletcher chooses to cast him adrift at sea. The shooting script shows only a few suggested lines for this scene and much of the dialogue between Bligh and Fletcher was improvised by the actors on the day of filming. This music is mixed heavily into the background of the scene and is abbreviated considerably from its complete form heard here.
24.- Cast Adrift – 08 :05
« I hope never to see Fletcher Christian again, unless it is to see him hanged ». Bligh and his party are cast adrift in an open launch to begin what even today would be an almost impossible journey of nearly four thousand nautical miles. The piece is another variation on the title theme, this time much slower and more melancholic. The finished film used only a portion of this cue, which ends in a series of fugal synthesizer chords, possibly to show the descent from order into chaos, that the Captain and crew have made. This was also the music used in both the American en European theatrical trailers for « The Bounty ».
25.- Return to Otahiti – 00 :39
Fletcher and the mutineers sail the Bounty back to Tahiti, much to the surprise and delight of the natives, but they are soon turned away by King Tynah who fears the repercussion of harbouring fugitives from the British Navy. Learning that his daughter will leave with Fletcher, Tynah agrees to send several native men and women to help sail the ship. This track uses a portion of Fletcher’s Theme to show the initial happiness of the mutineers having returned to the island paradise.
26.- Men against the Sea – 00 :32
Leaving Tahiti a second time, the Bounty is a ship without a port and the mutineers proceed with little direction or order. The action shifts to Captain Bligh and the men of the launch. Now forced to ration their dwindling provisions, some of the sailors show bitter resentment. Seaman Purcell challenges the Captain authority, but soon intimidated by the remorseless Bligh. This piece concludes with a series of deep chords the seethe with the anger rand fear of the mutiny survivors.
« Men against the sea » is the book in the Nordhoff-Hall trilogy that chronicles the journey of Captain Bligh and the men of the launch after the mutiny.
27.- Log Entries – 00 :34
« I’m committed to a desperate enterprise. » Fletcher discovers Mr. Young reading his journal and is warned that the men remaining will mutiny again if they do not reach land soon. This short track includes Fletcher’s Theme, sad and slow this time as he reveals his regret at casting Bligh adrift.
28.- The Mutineers’ Threats – 00 :45
The journal of Fletcher Christian continues as Mauatua brings Young to the captain’s cabin. There Fletcher details his discovery of Pitcairn’s Island, mentioned in an old nautical log yet uncharted on any map. Mr. Young makes an other subtle threat and Fletcher sees the fruitlessness of his ambition. As with the previous cue, this is another variation of Fletcher’s Theme.
29.- Civilised Men – 01 :35
As Captain Bligh makes his last log entry, the ship’s civilian botanist, Mr. Nelson, tells the others that his body should be eaten after he has died. Aware that dead is close at hand, Bligh refuses the request and says they will all die like civilised men. The music here acts as a resolution to the voyage of the men in the launch. Waiting for death, they will do so with dignity.
30.- Limits of Endurance – 02 :01
Aboard the Bounty, the mutineers make it clear that they will seize the ship again. Fletcher resorts to holding Mr. Young, their new leader, at gunpoint in order to stay on course to Pitcairn’s Island. Meanwhile in the launch, land is sighted and Bligh realises that their journey is finally over. The first portion of this piece is proceeds slowly and matches Fletcher’s long vigil over his hostage, while the pace builds toward the conclusion to illustrate the soaring spirits of the men in Bligh’s longboat. In the film, this cue abruptly cross-fades into the next, but it is included here in its entirety.
31.- The Saga of H.M.S. Bounty – 21 :12
31.1.- Pitcairn’s Island
31.2.- The Verdict
31.4.- End Titles in Three Movements
Fletcher and the mutineers finally reach Pitcairn’s Island and find its rocky shoreline unwelcoming, but suited in their needs. The men burn the Bounty, now with the realisation that they will never leave this island.
Captain Bligh’s trial concludes in England and he is acquitted of any wrongdoing. He stands before his judges having been proven right, but knowing that he will carry this tragedy for the rest of his life.
The suite of music may be defined in four distinct motifs.
« Pitcairn’s Island », the first of the four, underscores the mutineers sighting of land and their eventual landing. It builds in pitch and tempo with the men’s anticipation, but retards when they confront the uncertainty of their future, becoming an almost malevolent sounding version of Fletcher’s Theme.
The tone of the piece becomes distinctly more upbeat for the second part, « The Verdict », as Captain Bligh is exonerated. A snare drum concludes the trial, just as it began.
The « Epilogue » theme accompanies the conclusion of the film with ship’s bells, this time a distorted cry as the burning ship sinks into the sea.
The final portion of this suite is an « End Title in Three Movements », only the first of which was actually utilised in the film. It derived primarily from Fletcher’s Theme, but also includes the theme for Bligh in counterpoint. While the third movement is a vitual reprise of the first, the second is a for more tranquil variation and is tracked briefly in the film during Churchill’s farewell to Fletcher on Tahiti. It is essentially a theme for the freedom of man. As the film chronicles the story of two men and their change, so does its music ; this suite in particular with his contrapuntal themes and varying structure. It is certainly among the finest composition in Vangelis’s noteworthy career.
Transcription : Eric Sanglet
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