Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Exploring Film Sound

One of my major formal preoccupations in the cinema is with sound. No other aspect of film has been so important yet so neglected in critical studies. A few scholars, most notably Michel Chion, Rick Altman, and John Belton, have tackled the subject, but on the whole there remains a disappointing dearth of material. A lot of my favorite filmmakers, like David Lynch, Robert Altman, and Francis Ford Coppola have used sound as a key element in some of their best movies, most notably in Eraserhead and The Conversation (another essay on this film is forthcoming).

Like all of the most effective elements of art, film sound is subtle. When properly employed, you often don't notice how much of an effect it is having on you. Because of this understatedness, we as viewers have tendencey to attribute the emotional impact of sound to what's appearing on the image track. This is especially prominent in the horror film, where good sound is the most crucial of elements.

The following essay centers on these different aspects of film sound as they relate to horror films, especially Dario Argento's Suspiria, where countless artful uses of sound can be found on display.

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