Music is a very integral part of cinema. Cine is not, just about the visuals, it’s about the complete audio visual experience. The visuals act as a medium for us to see, but the audio acts as the medium for us to feel the visuals. The audio sets the mood of the film and makes the exaggerates the experience of the visuals in order for us to be able to focus only on what is needed to be, because if we watch a film with either no sound or with all sound(which includes noise) like how life is, the mood of the film won’t be set, you won’t feel that rush of adrenaline or the passion in the romance, it’ll just be a bland experience.
A great example of a movie where the background score has been used brilliantly could be Rush by Ron Howard. The sound score has been done by Hans Zimmer. Rush is about the F1 season of 1976, which shows the rivalry between legendary F1 drivers Niki Lauda and James Hunt. The film by itself has so many different themes and emotions it needs to explore with it’s sounds. F1 by itself is known for the noise of it’s cars in the race, the adrenaline rush that sound gives to it’s fans, the glamour that surrounds it, the competition, the risk of losing your life and then the music needs to get the 70’s in, the characteristics of two contrasting, yet extremely determined charters, James Hunt and Niki Lauda. James Hunt, on one side who was an extremely charismatic young playboy, while Niki Lauda, an extremely calculative young perfectionist. The sound score had to get the mischievous and playful mood of James, and the patriotic and always serious mood of Niki Lauda. So, Hans Zimmer went on to produce different kinds of scores, one kind which gave out the playfulness of James and the other which gave the seriousness of Niki. Then as the plot develops further in the film, you see James getting more serious and more determined and the soundtrack changing, becoming more grave and literally making the audience feel the pressure the racers felt while racing and experience the Rush they did. I personally think that one of the main reasons this film did so well was because of the music.
Another film I feel that owes it’s success to the sound score is Interstellar. Film directed by Christopher Nolan, sound score produced by Hans Zimmer again. The film is about space travel and finding a new habitable planet, but at the same time, the film is about a father-daughter relationship, emotions and love. Hans Zimmer effectively manages to make us feel the mysteriousness of space with his piano and organ scores, yet with the various different levels of pitch and tempo, he gives makes you get away from the emptiness and blandness and loneliness of space, but makes you feel the urgency Cooper has to get back to his daughter. It also has the best usage of silence in a film. The scene where Matt Damon’s character Dr. Mann loses it and crashes his space ship onto the dock and there’s an explosion, but instead of treating that explosion with a loud blast, all that’s there in the background is silence. It’s the silence that says this is it, all hopes are over, Cooper is never returning to Earth again, he’s never seeing his daughter again, everything’s over. On the other hand, it also gives the realistic impression of what space sounds like, because space is a vacuum, hence, there’s no sound travelling in it. The music made by Hans Zimmer for this film is what makes it feel so colossal and so hypnotic, that the viewers are transported to another world for a short duration of the film.
Another film with an effective sound score is Top Gun. The film is about a hot shot adraniline junkie naval pilot getting into an advanced fighter training academy. This film again explores various emotions that need to be brought out with the help of sound, there’s the mach, alpha male feel that needs to be brought out, then there’s the patriotic victorious feel that needs to be brought out, Tom Cruise’s flirty nature, then his failure and his determination to get back up and his victory over all odds. All these various emotions need to be brought out and they are with various guitar tones in the background. The constant beeps and sounds of electronics while in the cockpit view makes you feel the stuffiness and anxiousness a fighter pilot feels. Even the sound of the heavy breathing of the pilots gives you an insight on the conditions of a pilot. The sound of the jet engines and sonic boom from the aircraft gives you a feel of the adrenaline rush meant to be experienced from the film.
Overall, I think sound is extremely crucial to films. None of the films mentioned above would be successful without the sound scores. The sound in the don’t just add effects, but also help in developing characters, showing progress in the plot and setting the time period. All the sound clips exaggerate the emotions meant to be felt and help the viewer focus on to that particular emotion the director wants the viewer to feel.