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A scene that sticks with you in: Spectre. A psalm as a warm-up for sex.

Every stage show, film, or concert has a scene that touches you. A moment that evokes emotion, amazement, or perhaps disgust. Even in the James Bond film Spectre by director Sam Mendes contains one of those moments that stay with you. It is the fragment in which classical music, namely the aria Cum dederit from the Nisi Dominus RV 608 by Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741), is the prelude to sex.

Over 2 million visitors attracted Spectre in the Netherlands. According to most critics, the fight scenes are more spectacular than ever and Daniel Graig shows more of the archetypal Bond with his much appreciated witty British humour. What matters now is what happens between Bond and the widow Lucia Sciarra, a beautiful role played by Monica Belluci, an actress and fashion model from Italy.

Lucia Sciarra has just buried her husband. He was a villain in the criminal organisation Spectre. Bond got this man out of the way. Lucia comes home, turns on the living room lights and pours herself a drink. Then the compelling aria Cum dederit in a performance by countertenor Andreas Scholl. The slow music supports her walk outside. The distance is great, as it is in Italian villas. In a long take, you can see from her face that she is nervous. Logical, because inside are two men with loaded pistols. As she stands outside, her final moment seems near.

In two plops, however, Bond puts these killers to death. Lucia: 'There will be more to come! A matter of five minutes.' Bond: 'Good, then we have just time for a drink.' The aria stops. Champagne is poured. Lucia accuses Bond of killing her husband. Bond defends: her husband was a terrible villain. Lucia: 'When he was alive, I had status and was respected.' Bond presses against her, she lets him kiss her. An embrace against a mirror. He unbuttons her dress. Time jump. In lingerie, Lucia lies on the bed. 007 gets dressed. He writes down a phone number of a friend from the embassy. She has to call him. He has to go, catch villains.

What does a psalm have to do with eliminating killers and sex?

Zooming in for a moment Cum dederit. Vivaldi used Psalm 126 (the Latin version) for his Nisi Dominus RV 608. A spiritual musical work for voice, violin, viola d'amore and basso continuo. Musically, the aria is a Siciliana with chromatically ascending lines. A melancholic, soothing piece of music.

Now the text of the aria: Cum dederit dilectis suis somnum ecce haereditus Domini, filii: Merces fructus ventris. A Dutch translation is: Children are a gift from the Lord. The fruit of the womb is a reward from God. Like arrows in an archer's hand, so are children, conceived in your youth.

A pastor friend explained to me: You can put a lot of effort into all kinds of things and achieve a lot in life, but without God's blessing it will still be spiritless and unfruitful. Better still: temporary prosperity, but no prosperity with eternal value.

The melancholic music fits well with the sad and vulnerable Lucia trying to find peace. But it is the lyrics of Cum dederit which gives the most meaning to this striking scene of Lucia and the erotic lovemaking with 007.

Monica Belluci Spectre

You can argue about it, but actress Monica Belluci looks super attractive for her age of 51 (1964). Daniel Graig is 47(1968). And with this, an ambivalent feeling overwhelms you. The character Bond always seduces women (much) younger than himself. Fertile women. Bond Girl Lucia is no longer that.

The 'temporary prosperity' what the vicar is talking about seems to be true in the meaning of the film. Bond has temporarily eliminated her killers but danger lurks. OK, you can see the release scene as a temporary positive uplift, but if you run a gender studies analysis on it, Bond does not come off best. Lucia is a vulnerable woman. She has just lost her husband and she is in danger of being murdered. So is her head set on sex? From all the scenes, it appears not. No expression of flirting or seduction is apparent with her.

In the process, director Mendes confuses the viewer, especially those who empathise with Bond. Bond wants sex with an older and also pathetic woman. He has saved her and sex is his reward. But then, as a viewer, do you go along with his libido? It looks like a sexual assault! In the end, Lucia is left with a phone number; she gets the chance for a new life and freedom. There is something cheap about that.

In any case: the penetrating aria Cum dederit will henceforth be associated in film history with Spectre and the beautiful Monica Belluci.

Ps. Daniel Graig has never had trouble having sex with older women. As a handyman, for instance, he had an affair with grandmother May in The MotherNor with older men, for that matter. At Love is the Devil he plays the boyfriend of painter Francis Bacon.

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Wijbrand Schaap

Cultural journalist since 1996. Worked as theatre critic, columnist and reporter for Algemeen Dagblad, Utrechts Nieuwsblad, Rotterdams Dagblad, Parool and regional newspapers through Associated Press Services. Interviews for TheaterMaker, Theatererkrant Magazine, Ons Erfdeel, Boekman. Podcast maker, likes to experiment with new media. Culture Press is called the brainchild I gave birth to in 2009. Life partner of Suzanne Brink roommate of Edje, Fonzie and Rufus. Search and find me on Mastodon.View Author posts

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