“Bohemian Rhapsody” Gets to the Heart of Queen’s Legacy

A scene from the 2018 movie Bohemian Rhapsody. Courtesy of rollingstone.com

By Miriam Trujillo

“Bohemian Rhapsody”, the first major biopic on the career of Freddie Mercury, was released to theaters this past weekend on November 2nd. Since Queen has often been considered one of the world’s most important bands, the movie has a lot of expectations to live up to. Fans have long been eager to find out whether the film will feature certain songs, what aspects of Mercury’s life director Bryan Singer will emphasize, and whether or not actor Rami Malek will be able to pull off Mercury’s outrageous persona.

Now the movie is finally out, and viewers can see how Singer attempted to meld together story lines from Mercury’s personal life and musical career, but also how he focused on the music that made Mercury a legend. In order to convey how revolutionary Queen’s music is, Singer found it crucial to portray the eccentricities of Mercury in full force. In a few deft scenes, he captures how uninterested Mercury was in thinking and acting like a normal person, and how he single-mindedly he focused on his music. In the film, Mercury pulls off erratic stunts such as leaving the room in the middle of his birthday party to tinker with the tune “Happy Birthday” on the piano and forcibly breaking a microphone on stage so he can walk more freely around the stage.  In “Bohemian Rhapsody”, Mercury is depicted as being wholeheartedly focused on creating music, different from what anyone else has ever created, and forgetful of everyone and everything in order to pursue his one glorious goal. It is moments like these that make “Bohemian Rhapsody” an intriguing look into the mind of an artist, and therefore a deeply satisfying biopic of an artist’s life.

Singer easily expands this focus of Mercury’s creative process into a look at the creative process of the whole band. We see Queen start off in a surprisingly normal way. In the beginning, they were just another band who had to prove to an impatient audiences and stand up to managers that they had something new and important to contribute to the music world. Led by Mercury, and driven on by some lukewarm initial successes, the band got absurdly experimental, creating new sounds by placing coins on the drum sets, singing made-up words, turning the recording equipment volume up and down in the middle of a song, and other quirky practices. Singer matches his camerawork choices to the tone of Queen’s unusual music making choices, by showing several scenes on the screen at once, placing words over the scene while he is filming, and other unusual cinematic techniques that complement Queen’s bizarre but thought provoking musical style.

The scenes in “Bohemian Rhapsody” that are focused on Queen’s methods of envisioning music, piecing together sounds, and performing music may be the most valuable scenes in the entire film. In these moments the audience can fully appreciate how music making is a strange mixture of the humdrum and the sublime. We see Queen plod through several tedious recording sessions, in which they have to sing the same word over and over to get it exactly right. On the other hand, we see moments where Mercury is haunted by a small tune that keeps running through his head. This little tune eventually finds its way into “Bohemian Rhapsody”, one of the most groundbreaking songs of the 20th century.  

“My favorite part was the recording sessions of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’,” said Josie Miller, a sophomore Theology and Philosophy double major.  

Queen pursued artistic perfection, despite the conflict with other people’s expectations, which led them to become such an influential band and to star in one of the most poignant and memorable rock and roll concerts of all time: 1985’s Live Aid Concert. “Bohemian Rhapsody” ends with a reproduction of Queen’s set in Live Aid, and leaves Mercury, already reeling with the news of his terminal illness diagnosis, a shining musical legend.

“I like that it was essentially a happy story,” said Ally Kilgore, a sophomore Politics and Philosophy double major.  “[Mercury] never wanted to be seen as a victim.”

And he wasn’t. The world will never remember Mercury as an AIDS patient, but as a champion of 20th century music.

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