The purpose of this research paper is to facilitate the understanding of the synesthetic aesthetics in the film The Age of Innocence through the intertextuality among the narrative, paintings, and music in the film. In this paper, a two-dimensional intertextual analysis of the paintings in relation to the narrative is conducted on the paintings owned by Old New York, the paintings owned by Ellen, the portraits of unknown artists on the street outside of Parker House, and Rubens’ painting at the Louvre. A three-dimensional intertextual analysis of performances in relation to the narrative is conducted on the stages and the box seats at the New York Academy of Music, in which Charles F. Gounod’s Faust is performed, and the Wallack’s Theatre, in which Dion Boucicault’s The Shaughraun is performed. An intertextual analysis of music in relation to the narrative is also conducted on the diegetic and non-diegetic classical music of the film, including Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 8 and Mendelssohn’s String Quintet No. 2, as well as Elmer Bernstein’s non-diegetic music of the film.
The constituent event of The Age of Innocence represents the passion trapped in the reflection of love and desire that are not lasting, and the supplementary event embodies the narrow viewpoint and the inversion of values caused by the patriarchal authority of Old New York. The characters in the film live a double life, presenting an unaffected surface and concealing the problems behind it. The characters restrain their emotions at both the climax and the ending. The most powerful aspect of the film is the type and nature of oppressive life, which are more delicately described with the help of paintings and music, as there is a limit to describing them only by acting. In intertextual terms, paintings and music in The Age of Innocence continuously emphasize “feeling of emotions that cannot be expressed in language.” With a synesthetic image, as if each part were imprinted on the previous part, the continuity “responds to continuous camera movements and montage effects.” In The Age of Innocence, erotic dynamism brings dramatic excitement to the highest level, switching between the satisfaction of revealing desire and the disappointment of hiding desire due to its taboo status. This is possible because paintings and music related to the narrative have made aesthetic achievements that overcome the limitations of two-dimensional planes and limited frames. The significance of this study lies in that, since the identification in The Age of Innocence is based on the establishment of a synesthetic aesthetic through audio-visual representation of the film narrative, it helps us to rediscover the possibility of cinematic aesthetics.