Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Sound Effects in David Lean's Cineguild Features

Over the past few months, I have kept myself busy analyzing several aspects of two of my favorite David Lean films: THE PASSIONATE FRIENDS (1949) and BRIEF ENCOUNTER (1945).

In two video essays, I focus primarily on how the film makers utilized diegetic sounds (other than source music) as storytelling devices. Since it will take some time until the second video (about the use of "silence" in THE PASSIONATE FRIENDS) will be ready, I have decided to publish them separately. So here is the first one:

Melodramatic Railway Sounds - Video Essay from Oswald Iten on Vimeo.

Description: Analysis of the narrative functions that diegetic sound effects assume in BRIEF ENCOUNTER (1945).

The richly layered sound tracks of David Lean's Cineguild films of the 1940s are a real treat for anyone who appreciates sophisticated sound design (avant la lettre, of course). Although BRIEF ENCOUNTER is predominantly told from the protagonist's subjective perspective, all the sound effects are strictly diegetical (meaning that all sounds can be attributed to a source within the narrative world).

Off-screen sounds of bells, whistles and trains both open up the visible space and work as interruptions or alerts that determine the characters' actions.

But the railway sounds also form sort of an alternative score (to the dominant Rachmaninoff concerto) that comments on the action and helps express the protagonist's emotional state.

Note: This video essay utilizes excerpts from David Lean's BRIEF ENCOUNTER (1945) under the guidelines of fair use for analytical and educational purposes only.

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