Music and film have been able to evolve together over the past 100-ish years to create more beauty out of these arts than any artist could probably have imagined. Obviously music has been around for a longer time than movies, but the profound affects the two have on each other led them both to feed each other’s creative capabilities.
First There Was Silence
Before there were movies with sound, we had the silent era of film. I have not seen many films from that era, but I do know how popular Charlie Chaplin’s films were and still are today. His film, “The Kid” features a comedic fight scene that has no sound, but honestly doesn’t need it.
Chaplin was able to take visual arts and impact millions of people without a sound, which inspired generations of filmmakers to come. Chaplin wasn’t the only silent film influence on the world, but he made big strides toward the future with his techniques
Then Came the Music
When sound came to film, there became so much more room to explore within the medium. People could have conversations without being interrupted by dialogue cards, fights that sounded real and thrilling and the sounds of music could be heard by the audience.
One of my favorite scenes from “RRR”, a movie that came out this year, incorporates music, choreography and cinematography beautifully. You can watch it here:
The colors and costumes in this exciting action film aren’t even the best part. The music and choreographed scenes add more to the movie’s strengths than the dialogue or plot.
“La La Land” and “Sound of Music” are another two films that blow me away in their use of music in film. They, like “RRR”, have scenes throughout the film that are choreographed and feel separate from the film universe around them. Whenever I see an amazing musical-ish movie like “La La Land” I do enjoy it, but it often feels less plot oriented and less emotionally impactful than narrative films.
Synthesizing the Worlds
The films above are absolutely fantastic and I have nothing bad to say about them, but the way these next couple of films use sound and music creates more emotional connection and tension. Instead of separating scenes into dialogue and music, the directors of these movies have incorporated music and rhythm directly into the cinematography of the entire film.
In the opening scene of “Sound of Metal”, the camera is focused solely on Ruben about to launch into his drum routine live on stage. We see his reactions and actions to the sounds and stimuli around him, and we learn this movie is more character driven than anything else.
The music of that scene adds to Ruben’s character rather than existing as a nice emotional piece of music. It is the background and platform to understand his current state of emotional affairs. Music is part of Ruben’s world and throughout the film, music and sound are used as character development rather than emotional stimulation.
Also, in movies by Edgar Wright, like “Shaun of the Dead” and “Baby Driver”, action scenes are synched to a musical rhythm like Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now”. It is a lot like a choreographed dance, but instead of relying on dance to show the rhythm, the scenes are able to use violent action synched to a beat. The characters also rely on music to express themselves to the people they love around them.
I have found movies that are able to synthesize music with the narrative flow and cinematography often create a more emotionally influential piece of art. Music hits our ears at the same time we see a story unfolding and pictures moving with the sound of the film.