film study: how important is the soundtrack in a film??

Imagine you’re watching a really creepy film [for the first time] in the dark, and you know the villain is creeping around every dark corner. The tension is obviously high already but then you start hearing screeching violins as the villain is finally shown in the light, looking right at you. How would you feel by this point? nervous? Would your heart be racing at a million beats per minute? good. then it accomplished what it was supposed to — personally, I’d blame the violins for the heart racing.

For as long as I’ve watched movies, [so about 22 years] the ones that made me feel uneasy either had extremely tensing music as part of the film or even NO sound at all, [I’m looking at you, HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2!] especially at the climax of the film[s].

Imagine watching any of the films above, but without their soundtrack; would the effect/delivery of the movie be the same? I can’t even imagine the film Drive with no music – the movie would be still good.. but it wouldn’t feel like it’s suppose to. But what are the actual fundamentals of music in film? Let’s look into it, starting below.

the Music/Soundtrack in the film is usually there to tell the viewer how they should be feeling and what emotions they should be experiencing: it adds scale and can actually dramatize events, making events more captivating. Here’s an example — a character, who usually ends up being important dies. what happens next? sad, melodramatic music begins to play in the background. Without the melodramatic background music playing, the character’s death doesn’t seem as significant as it should. In that moment, you feel sad/upset that the character has died, because you actually empathize with the people in the movie who cared for the now lost individual.


and now I have ‘My Heart Will Go On‘ in my head..fuck.

Now let’s look at the opposite side to that, the one I suggested at the start of this post [and let’s face it: the one I probably know more about] – the importance of music/soundtracks in horror film! The thing about horror films is they are all becoming similar: whether it’s plot, death scenes, [granted, you can only get so creative now a days?] etc. However, the soundtrack in these films still have an impact on the viewer — look at PSYCHO, the infamous shower scene with the screeching violins: that scene was supposed to silent originally.. would it have worked so well? maybe, but the violins gave it character and made it feel more real. Or even in JAWS, when the shark is silently pacing through the water; when that famous 2-toned tune [which I know you’re humming now] starts playing at a faster speed — you just know the people in the water are fucked.


we’re gonna need some new legs over here, Cap!

At the end of the day, I’ve come to realize that music in films is important. Without it, the film may feel less significant or even – less scary. When I think about it, this may be why my parents didn’t find PARANORMAL ACTIVITY scary at all – being as they’re deaf – they couldn’t hear the creepy sound effects or ‘experience’ the jump scares, while everyone else in the theater had mini heart attacks!!

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