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We’ve all had the experience in which we here a police siren, the rumble of a train, the roar of an airplane and we know what is coming based on the sound that precedes it. The same can be said for the music of a film. Quite often when one watches the trailer for a film you understand what type of film it will be within the first few seconds because of the music, sometimes more so than the visuals. Many filmmakers use this nonverbal cue to communicate to the audience what they can expect in the story. The filmmakers who created My Sweet Prince wanted composer Eiko Jin to do the inverse of this. They had a major twist in their storyline and wanted Jin to help them deceive, in a benevolent manner, the audience. Audiences are clever and there are so many films these days that director Sijia Zhao felt Eiko’s mastery of mood and melody would enable the prestidigitation which was the aim of the production. Not only was this method successful but it resulted in critical and public acclaim.

Director Sijia Zhao wanted to draw public attention to the LGBTQ community. She wanted to use her creation to communicate the idea that people should not be judged or pressured to be anything but themselves. Her hope was that the tragedy which occurs in the film could be avoided in a future reality. The film is a love tragedy involving a gay couple. A teacher and student fall in love but the teacher ends the relationship, deciding to marry a woman to release the social pressure in his life (aged and still single). The student lover has a video of their lovemaking and uses it to threaten the teacher. His goal is for the teacher to call his fiancé and cancel their wedding or risk the release the video to the school and the public. During a fight, the teacher accidentally kills the student.

To mimic the story and not reveal too much in the trailer, Zhao asked Eiko to create separate musical backdrops for the main film and trailer. Viewers have found it intuitive to understand the sense of a film simply from the music in the trailer. To protect the secrets and tone of the actual film, Jin wrote two versions of the music for My Sweet Prince. The music featured in the trailer is completely separate and not used in the film. The music in the film’s trailer is presented in a mysterious style to camouflage the audience from the surprise ending of the story. The pace of the trailer is faster than the film. Sijia wanted more tension in the film. Rather than simply editing the music created for the film, Jin created a similar yet somewhat concealing new sound for the trailer.

For this film, Jin wanted to create a twisted, dark and desperate feeling in the music. Society’s view of a same-sex relationship is still not equal to that of a heterosexual one and the composer wanted the music to communicate this. Add to this the cultural view of an immoral relationship between teacher and student. Eiko placed cues in the music to communicate this. In the opening scene, a synthesizer is plays a three-beat repeating melody line, the lower range of which is actually the melody. The lower range is expressive while the higher range is trapped or stuck, representing both the teacher and the student. Later a staccato bass adds tension to the scene. Later in the film when the student starts crying, the piano begins to play, joined later by the harp and synth to deliver an emotional respite. Sijia still wanted a prevalence of tension and struggle with intermittent release. During the climactic scene, a song written and sung by Eiko accompanies the slow-motion action on screen. The desperation of the student is evident, feeling that by losing his love he has already lost his life. The impact of the scene is magnified by the song which Jin explains, “I wrote this song just for this scene. The instrumental is not complicated. I wanted to exaggerate my voice, like crying for them, like telling the story for them. Some of the lyrics are, ‘Once you said you’ll love me till the end of everything. Once you said you’ll leave me No one can change the destiny, But I wanna try. I wanna try till make it the end of everything.’ When the teacher decided to leave the student he was very cold and determined, refusing to negotiate. To me, the desperate student just wanted try to get his lover back, even in a very stupid revenging way. When the events he set in motion cost him his life, that’s the end of the world, that’s his eternity.”

At the same time, when the student was sad, I have to turn it to be an emotional style and I wrote a song for the last slow-motion scene. I finished the melody/lyrics, and performed by myself with a desperate singing voice to help narrative the story.”

While the overwhelming attention that the public and the LGBTQ community gave the film attests to Jin’s success in delivering Zhao’s intended message, it’s the praise of the director which Eiko takes to heart. Sijia declares, “Eiko’s great work for my film propelled the story to a higher level with the fantastic and mysterious music she wrote. Her music emphasized the tension that I wanted to create in my film. It led the audience to follow the story emotionally. In particular, the song that Eiko wrote and sang for the last scene in the film expressed the desperation between the characters and her beautiful voice is definitely irreplaceable for the story. Eiko’s music helped me in an unbelievable way and my film was selected by the 2017 Love Queer Cinema Week of The 10th Beijing Queer Film Festival. She perfectly matched the tone of the film’s message resulting in the completion of my vision.”

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