Opera Meets Film: How ‘It Chapter Two’ Uses ‘Caro Mio Ben’ To Add Dramatic Significance To One Major Death (Spoilers)By David Salazar
(Credit: Warner Bros)
Opera Meets Film” is a feature dedicated to exploring the way that opera has been employed in cinema. We will select a section or a film in its entirety, highlighting the impact that utilizing the operatic form or sections from an opera can alter our perception of a film that we are viewing. This week’s installment features “It Chapter Two.”
“It Chapter Two” is a film that relies heavily on tonal extremes. It jumps from pure comedy to intense suspense within seconds, adding a sense of unpredictability to the proceedings.
And it is in this context that the film introduces one single operatic passage – the famed “Caro mio ben.” After moving through a number of reintroductions of the losers vis-a-vis calls from Michael (all with varying tonal shifts), we get to Stanley. Unlike the other characters, he seems to be the most composed of the lot, enjoying a nice evening with his wife and discussing a potential vacation together. As the scene between the two commences however, the music begins, seemingly as a diegetic choice.
The piece itself, with its intense longing and sadness, immediately shifts the entire tone of the sequence. To this point, the sequence has been rather comic in its mood, with hints of the fear coming from all the characters. We’ve seen people ridicule Bill’s endings. We’ve seen Rich’s comedy act and Eddie’s loopy car accidence. We’ve also seen Ben’s loneliness, moving us slowly into what will be the emotional turning point of the sequence – Stanley’s suicide (It’s worth noting that right after Stanley’s death we are reintroduced to Beverly in a sequence that is rife with abuse and danger).
“Caro mio ben” plays throughout the sequence, amplifying the tragic dimension. We don’t hear any other such vocal passages throughout the rest of the film, so this musical appearance stands out on its own and furthers its own significance as a result.
The piece’s own meaning can’t be lost on the listener either as it adds intertextual potency, seemingly commenting on the story itself. “Dearest, my beloved, believe me at least this much, without you, my heart languishes,” says the piece’s first section. It both refers to the action unfolding onscreen (Stanley leaving his wife and the world behind), but also how this event will affect the other protagonists. It might also be seen as a reflection of Stanley’s own thoughts in the very moment when he opts for this choice.
Stanley leaves a hole in the entire group and it is something that the losers grapple with upon returning to Derry. He appears in many of their memories, becoming the protagonist in two key moments that shift the story. The first of these is when the group happens upon their old tree house, finally remembering what brought them together so many years ago. But the second memory is all the more potent with Richie, preparing to abandon the group altogether, revisiting Stanley’s Bar Mitzvah. This memory pushes him in the right direction, making him a key part of the film’s climax.
Ultimately, the choice of “Caro mio ben” to underscore Stanley’s suicide gives the moment added importance and emphasizes the emotional depth and power it has for the other characters. The choice of music makes it stand out and difficult to shake for the audience; the result is that it remains a reminder of the stakes for the characters and keeps the drama focused.