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Truly, Madly, Cello

A hopeful cello movie sometimes used for grief counseling*

As a result of the pandemic, many of us are dealing directly or indirectly with pain and loss. This cello movie is about love, loss, and ultimately – the triumph of the human spirit.

It has been used in professional grief counseling.* Even if you’re not looking for help in getting over a loss, this is a beautifully made movie with a rich musical score and a prominent role for the cello.

Juliet Stevenson and Alan Rickman in Truly, Madly, Deeply. Copyright by BBC and other relevant production studios and distributors. Intended for editorial use only. Source: MovieStills DB'

Juliet Stevenson and Alan Rickman in Truly, Madly, Deeply. Copyright by BBC and other relevant production studios and distributors. Intended for editorial use only. Source: MovieStills DB.


Truly, Madly, Deeply

Today’s cello movie is Truly Madly Deeply (1990), a British film that viewers tend to either love or hate. We love it!

This is director and screenwriter Anthony Minghella’s first (and some say best) film before he made The English Patient, The Talented Mr. Ripley, and Cold Mountain.

The title of the film was “Cello” through the completion of the shooting as sort of a pun: “cello” as the instrument and “cielo” for heaven. But when Samuel Goldwyn bought the film, he didn’t like the title, saying it sounded like the biography of Jacqueline du Pré. Little did he know that later this would be a very successful movie.

In the end, the title has been used thousands of times and even became the title of a number one pop song by Savage Garden.


The Cast

Alan Rickman as the cellist Jamie in Truly, Madly, Deeply. Copyright by BBC and other relevant production studios and distributors. Intended for editorial use only. Source: MovieStillsDB.

Alan Rickman as the cellist Jamie in Truly, Madly, Deeply. Copyright by BBC and other relevant production studios and distributors. Intended for editorial use only. Source: MovieStillsDB.

This film stars Juliet Stevenson as Nina and a young Alan Rickman as her cellist lover or husband, Jamie. At first, it is not clear in the film that Jamie is dead because he holds such an important place in Nina’s life. However, soon we find out that although he’s a very real presence in Nina’s life and she still has his cello, Jamie has died.

Minghella said he wrote the film for her, and Stevenson is brilliant in the range of emotions she expresses throughout the film, from anguished crying through screaming rage to joyful laughter.


Truly, Madly, Deeply in Grief Counseling

Sometimes used in grief counseling, this film explores ideas about choosing to live for the past or for the future. It explores how relationships change and how people offer support to those who have lost a loved one. Minghella said,

“I populated the film with examples of how people support each other through grief and through loss and through troubles.”

But don’t think this movie is all doom and gloom. As Minghella said, this movie is about “the triumph of the spirit.” This is likely why it has been so successfully used in grief counseling and one reason we chose to highlight this film at this time. The movie offers hope and features the cello throughout.


The Cello as Symbol

The cello is very symbolic in the film. Minghella intuitively understood how close cellists can grow to their cellos. We’ve known many cellists who feel as if the cello becomes part of them.

Nina takes this idea even further and treats the cello as if it truly is Jamie. When asked to give the cello away or sell it, she becomes very agitated and says that the cello is Jamie:

“It is him! ’Tis him. It’s like asking me to give you his body.”

Minghella stated that he intentionally personifies the cello:

“That was an idea that I got very early on that the cello in the room was her lover Jamie, and that as far as she was concerned, it had nothing to do with being a musical instrument; it was his personification.”

Nina hugging Jamie's cello. Screenshot from Truly, Madly, Deeply. Copyright by BBC and other relevant production studios and distributors. Intended for editorial use only.

Nina hugging Jamie’s cello. Screenshot from Truly, Madly, Deeply. Copyright by BBC and other relevant production studios and distributors. Intended for editorial use only.


Alan Rickman as a Cellist

Alan Rickman took cello lessons to play this role. Additionally, Minghella hired a “stunt” cellist, Caroline Dale, to create the close-ups of his left hand. In the opening scene, Rickman does the bowing himself, while Dale covers the left hand by standing behind him and putting her arm under Rickman’s armpit. Note the woman’s watch on her wrist.

Opening cello sequence from Truly, Madly, Deeply. Transition from Alan Rickman playing the cello to a still photograph of him playing. Copyright by BBC and other relevant production studios and distributors. Intended for editorial use only.

Opening cello sequence from Truly, Madly, Deeply. Copyright by BBC and other relevant production studios and distributors. Intended for editorial use only.


Truly, Madly, Morse – the Composer of the Film Score

Barrington Pheloung, the great Australian composer known for his brilliant score for the Inspector Morse series and its offshoots, Inspector Lewis and Endeavour, wrote the music for the film. Later he composed the score for the film Hilary and Jackie.

For Truly, Madly, Deeply, Pheloung used Bach as his starting point. In addition to writing the music for the film, he appeared in it as one of the ghosts who visits and plays music with Jamie.


SPOILER ALERT – If you don’t want to know the ending, please skip to “Where to Find the Film” below.


Closing the Cello Case

At the end of the film, Nina puts Jamie’s cello into its case, and closes the door on it to go out and meet her new boyfriend. This is a very symbolic moment – a moment of sadness and closure as well as a moment where Nina chooses to look forward rather than back. Minghella said of this scene:

“And then this idea that she’s burying Jamie by putting the cello in a coffin. Maybe it’s a bit heavy-handed but it seemed terribly significant at the time, and the way she did it was so perfect that you just felt like she was letting go by closing the cello [case].”

Nina puts the cello in its case and leaves the cello behind. From Truly, Madly, Deeply. Copyright by BBC and other relevant production studios and distributors. Intended for editorial use only.

Nina puts the cello in its case and leaves the cello behind. Truly, Madly, Deeply. Copyright by BBC and other relevant production studios and distributors. Intended for editorial use only.


Where to Find the Film

In the USA, Truly, Madly, Deeply is available on DVD from Netflix, and we were able to purchase a DVD on Amazon.** Since we could not find a free online copy, here is the trailer:


Comfort and Companionship

If you’re experiencing pain or loss at this time, we hope that the cello provides you with comfort and companionship. We hope this movie can be an additional source of help and/or diversion.


Your Turn

What are your favorite cello movies? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to subscribe to our weekly newsletter.



Sources


 * The information in this article is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional emotional or medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. All content is for general information purposes only.
** Unfortunately, we cannot test viewing options from other regions, and YouTube videos come and go. Be sure to check DVD viewing formats in your area before purchasing.
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