by Ben Hogwood
I thought I would offer a quick, spoiler-free blog on the use of classical music in Netflix’s most-successful drama ever, Squid Game. The Korean morality tale has been a huge hit through the originality of its storylines, the quality of its acting, and the jaw-dropping directness of its violent game and fight scenes.
What has probably passed under the radar is its frequent use of classical music. To start with it is piped to the game players by as they try to rest / avoid death between the games, and as they prepare for another tension-laden stint in the games room. Soon it becomes front and centre of the action itself. There are three main pieces used:
Haydn Trumpet Concerto in E flat major, 3rd movement
This is heard in the first episode, when the players gain consciousness of the new setting they find themselves in:
Tchaikovsky Waltz from Serenade for Strings in C major
This is doubtless meant to be a calming presence in the background while the players begin their formative friendships / relationships / grudges. It proves to be a deceptively graceful backdrop:
Johann Strauss II On The Beautiful Blue Danube
The clincher. This has been used in many a film of course, and even in The Simpsons (when Homer eats potato chips in space!) but here it takes on an unexpectedly sinister air. Occasionally it can be triumphant – towards the end of a game for instance – but its first appearance is the lasting one, from the terrifying first game, where the players realise just how high the stakes are going to be:
It is intriguing how the producers of Squid Game keep classical music in reserve for these moments, and use specially commissioned music from Jung Jae-il to describe scenes and events elsewhere in the drama. In doing this they create very different and effective backdrops that only add to the tension in a thoroughly gripping series!