The works of this major Romantic period composer range from charming, characterful small works, for example the Kinderszenen: Von fremden Ländern und Menschen (Scenes From Childhood: Of Strange Lands and People), to the expansive, dramatic large works like the Symphonic Etudes or the famous Piano Concerto in A Minor.
The Kinderszenen enhance such films as El Día que nací yo (1991), Sophie's Choice (1982), and My Brilliant Career (1979). The Symphonic Etudes support scenes in Colonel Chabert (1994), and the Piano Concerto in A Minor occurs in Höstsonaten (Autumn Sonata, 1978). Schumann's Piano Quintet in E Flat, Op. 44, 2nd Movement is heard as Fanny och Alexander (Fanny and Alexander, 1982) opens on a shot of young Alexander Ekdahl dreamily musing over a small toy theater lit by candles. He moves cutouts of knights and ladies about on the stage. He hears a noise outside the door and calls out, "Fanny? Mama?" He opens another door, "Edith? Papa?" More flapping noises as the music continues. The music changes to a serious march as he unlocks another door to a bedroom and says to the air, "Grandma?" He throws himself into a large old-fashioned bed. The scene cuts to his hand against a frosty window pane as he observes a horse-drawn wagon bearing a family and what seems to be their possessions slowly moving through the snowy street outside. The music fades.
Schumann's brilliant vocal cycle Dichterliebe (The Loves of a Poet) was realized in Dichterliebe (2000), and heard in excerpts in the television production of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat (1987). The composer's Carnaval appears in two strange films from the 1940s, the film noir Possessed (1947) and Night Song (1948), a drama/romance about a socialite who likes classical and falls for a blind jazz pianist.
Frühlingssinfonie (Spring Symphony, 1983), starring Nastassja Kinski and Herbert Grönemeyer, examines the relationship between the composer and Clara Wieck, the brilliant pianist and composer who was his wife and saved many of his compositions from destruction by Schumann himself. She is depicted as being taken advantage of by both the composer and her father whose personalities are similar. The movie is rather melodramatic and sometimes corny but offers a historic overview and a generous amount of the composer's music.
Other works by Schumann are excerpted for De eso no se habla (I Don't Want to Talk About It, 1993) which uses the Etude, Op. 68; La Fille de Quinze Ans (The 15-Year-Old Girl, 1989) with the Davidsbündlertanze; Douglas Sirk's Interlude (1957); the Happy Farmer in The Wizard of Oz (1939); and the Spanish documentary Almadrabas (1934).