After its use in 1931’s Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, the Toccata & Fugue, attributed (controversially) to Bach, became a staple of 1930s horror films, leading to it becoming shorthand for “Evil, cobwebbed shenanigans are about to ensue” in popular culture.
“[During a seminar about Ingmar Bergman’s films], an audience member purportedly shouted out: ‘What do you believe in, Ingmar?’ The director responded: ‘I believe in other worlds, other realities. But my prophets are Bach and Beethoven; they definitely show another world….[Bach] gives us the profound consolation and quiet that previous generations gained through ritual. Bach supplies a lucid reflection of otherworldliness, a sense of eternity no church can offer today.’
…Of the ten [Bergman] films that feature the music of Bach, half of them employ a Bach sarabande. The sarabande mirrors the director’s tendency to construct a film out of a series of duets, searching dialogues between characters that greatly need to communicate with each other but only manage to engage in a hopelessly desperate dance; they conform as best they can to the societal constraints that surround them but they at all times threaten to emit a cry that cannot be contained, that somehow escapes those confines.
The characters reach out to each other from across an abyss. What better way to represent that than through Bach’s music reaching out to us across the abyss of so much time and so much lost faith?
-Chadwick Jenkin, The Profound Consolation: The Use of Bach’s Music in the Films of Ingmar Bergman