The conduit is a passage of time that takes you through the nightmare of a little boy, Shanay. The glimpses and flashes of his horrific dream reflect in his drastic movements in the very beginning, which further leads you into the dream. While there is an overlying narrative of Shanay being haunted by his own ghost – the alternatively occurring fantastical and surreal imagery represents the absurdity of the dreams we see.
Most of us think of film as a visual experience without realizing the impact sound has on this experience, sometimes even contributing more than the visual language offered to a viewer. Sound largely contributes to the emotion and rhythm of the film. It provides a set tone or an emotional dimension towards the story and characters of the film. In some cases, sound also works as a medium of understanding the change in mood in the film or an intuitive change in plot.
The Theory of Sound by Bela Balazs speaks of a similar take on the vast potential of sound towards a film and the numerous possibilities that can be experimented through the medium of sound.
The essay instantly reminded me of the Great Gatsby which for me did a fabulous job in terms of sound and justifying the mood by the background music, yet maintaining a sense of compatible contrast between the visuals and the background tracks. Set in the 1920s the film ironically boasts music of the contemporaries. The Great Gatsby houses everything from jazz, techno-rap, EDM, hip-hop and dubstep along with pieces from Lana Delray and Beyonce altogether which before the release would have been usually interpreted and put into a modern, today’s age context. The film defies the norm and creates magic with the blend of visuals and sound. My most favourite scene being the party scene at Gatsby’s home where Fergie’s “A little party killed no body” runs through the background along with jazz beats of Bang Bang and intermittent conversation all contributing to the one of the most brilliant scenes I have seen almost making all of the glitz and glamour of the world come alive together in those few shots. The sounds in this scene form a sort of space colouring as Balazs explains in his essay where a sound has the ability to shoot an image, setting and a certain palette into our minds. As soon as you hear the tunes of the party scenes you instantly imagine a extravagant, flamboyant and colourful set up. Another one of my favourite scenes from the film is when Gatsby and Daisy reunite at his house and he showers her with all kinds of clothes from the top floor while she basks in the luxuries of his love and riches. During this scene Lana Delray’s “Young and beautiful” plays which instantly puts you in the Daisy’s shoes for those few shots and creates a deep emotional impact of love and intensity. Much like Belazs’ explanation of the ‘Acoustic World’, the pitch and repetition of words in this number make for a strong emotional connection between the viewer of the film and Daisy.
Another movie that instantly struck me as soon as I read the references Belasz makes to typical sounds such as a floorboard creaking in a deserted room or the deathwatch beetle ticking in old furniture, was the Conjuring – a film whose sound effects were enough to snatch my sleep away from me for days after I watched it. The horror film which is said to be based on a true story, changed everyone’s perspective to a regular sound of a clap. We have often experienced the regular thrill when a ghost or vampire jumps into the scene out of nowhere in a regular horror movie but this film provides a much more intensified gasp just by the sound of distant claps. Not only does the film brag its ability to make you shiver just by the sound of its clapping from hell soundtrack but it easily creates the most horrifying and feared moments in the prescense of absolute silence except for a soft humming sound that leaves you scarred for hours after. Conjuring is one of the few films of the ones I have seen that successfully manages to create emotion and emit sound in silence. The film manages to create hollowness in sound and messes with all our previous perceptions and relations that we draw with sound. The Asynchronous sound in the film contributes significantly to the story of the movie and the feeling of terror, isolation and suffocation.
Absolutely contrary in terms of mood, setting and beat to the Conjuring is Jodhaa Akbar, a Bollywood film based on a historic love story between a Rajput princess and a Mughal emperor. This film emanates the feeling of royalty, pride and in some scenes love through its sound using basic elements that make up the tracks and help us generate the feeling of going back in time into an India full of kings, queens, grand palaces and sword fights. This film especially fits into the category of a film that creates visuals by its sounds. If I were to close my eyes and watch the movie, 90 percent of it would still absolutely make sense and create images in my head due to the sound. Simple use of trumpets and loud drumbeats while the entrance of King Akbar automatically characterizes and personifies a character in your head while you hear the high pitched instruments that are usually associated with royalty or pride. The scene of the sword fight between Jodhaa and Akbar specifically is one of the scenes that can be effortlessly understood and visualized just by the sound effects during the fight. As Bela Balazs’ essay points out that in several instances sounds explains the pictures, Jodhaa Akbar is a good example of the film that does and lives up to the accuracy in sound expected by a film depicting the lives of the emperors and princesses of India during the Mughal period. Yet the film does not lose out on the implication of love through sound either, popular tracks such as “In Lamhon Ke Daaman Mein” or “Jashna Bahaara” hold significance in creating the romantic mood of the film while “Khwaja mere Khwaja” and “Mann Mohana” are tracks that distinctly represent the Islam-Hindu aspect of the story.
Bela Balazs rightly says that sound has a major part to reveal the film and its feeling to its audience and is almost and in some cases more significant than its visual language. Sound has the ability to do wonders of all kinds, some of which I noticed in the films above that definitely prove the power of sound.
The above sculpture is Chola Bronze Statue of Parvati cast amongst one of the most prominent periods, the Chola period.
In this particular sculpture, Parvati is seen wearing a conical shaped crown – one that I directly associated with Traditional Chinese royal wear. Her jewelry both in her ears and neck accentuate her rather defined curves making the statue almost seem sensually inviting. Her hips tilt towards her left with her delicate hand gently resting on it making her seem both graceful and yet voluptuous at the same time. The appearance and repetition of circles in the sculpture whether its the conical crown, the earrings, the necklace, her breast or navel, the lines on her dhoti and even her body structure as a whole seem to add to the subtly lewd nature of the sculpture. Her right hand gesture too seems suggestive of some sort of invitation, as if she were waiting for someone with something in her hand as a greeting. The dark metal used makes her seem more exotic and alluring. However while this sculpture leaves you with a sense of temptation with a hint of poise and royalty, her expressionless face brings out a feeling of mystery and suspicion – as if there were another story within the external sensuality of her figure.
The mustard locks seemed inviting as the loosely fit bulb shone the path to darkness. Each layer seemed more and more tangled the deeper you went, yet they were all connected, holding tightly on to each other. The black and pristine end of darkness fetched immense curiousity to the onlooker. It was an explosion of mystery and exciting uncertainty. The shambolic bulb couldn’t have bent more perfectly towards the converging structure increasing the urge to dive into the space it lit up rather aesthetically. For some, the arrangement may remind them of a woven conical basket probably made by someone of a clumsy or casual nature explaining the open ends towards the bottom. Others would possibly relate the structure to one of a snug nest crafted by seriously muscular birds considering the thickness of the material. In this case, the light could pass of as a visiting firefly that is rather intrusively lurking into the business of these burly birds. The closer you notice the structure, the more it actually seems like a stack of wooden flowers piled up one against the other in ascending size. However the beauty of this image really is in the contrast of light and the role of darkness that actually brings all the suspicion and a sense of direction to the piece. Each line holds its own areas of darkness and light making the entire assembly notable.
The very first glance at this piece gives you a simple sense of city possibly facing some kind of turbulence. However the closer you look at it, you notice a sense of contrast in colour that tries to portray two opposing episodes. It is then that you might realise the change in season that takes place through the change from white to black. The tree is one of the most prominent and telling elements that show you this change where the white version of it stands erect while as time progresses towards monsoon, the blacker or darker version is seemingly uprooted. The white roads are overlapped by layers of dark waters that hold floating elements
of a city like the traffic light depicting a flood. The sky too is layered with black clouds marking the arrival of monsoon. While the environment is layered to show change, the buildings are unchanged and still almost as if they are untouched by the surrounding alteration. The scraps and fragments of the dark layers add texture and a sense of chaos to the image. However a closer look at each of the scrap pieces would let you into a whole other city by itself making this piece one that tells much more than just one story.
Wong Kar-wai’s “In the mood for love” is a melodramatic subtle outburst of emotion and conflict maintaining elegant standards while touching themes popular and relatable to the audiences such as that suppression, vows, adulteration or extra marital relations. The movie shows light on the thin line between loyalty and infidelity and is almost a journey from one to the other. The tight frames in the film keep the characters and their emotions as the only focus of the film. Colour holds a very strong importance to the mood of the film as one notices the costumes of the characters as dull when they are apart and a tinge of brightness in shade when they are together marking their dispositions and intensity towards one another.
There is an elusive sense of tension that runs through out the film and several elements further intensify the atmosphere like the long empty corridors, window panes, focus on corners and loose furniture in the room. Emphasis on simple gestures and movements of little things like their hands on top of each other or their feet, all help intensify their emotion and feelings towards each other. Also, the sound and changing rhythm during the exchange of conversation or gesture between the couple elevates the passion and drama of the film. Since the film mainly focuses on the couple and their interaction it is difficult to estimate the passing of time other than the change of costume or the frequently occurring clock. Yet, the passage of time is extremely essential to understand in the film since the story works in different directions with each narrative independently speaking for itself and then altogether as a single course of pretention to reality. Chao and Chan being the central characters have three main narratives that run across the film, one being their individual relations with their spouses, the other is the pretentious game they play with each other enacting their relations with their spouses who are cheating on them with another and the third is their own advance of feelings for the one another. What I find most interesting about the film is that the protagonists meet and befriend each other to eradicate the situation of infidelity with their own spouses which ultimately leads them to the same place as they fall in love with each other while pretending and rehearsing to be their spouses. This irony, according to me is what makes the film thought provoking and an exhilarating watch. Some parts of the film seem to dawdle towards the middle but the scenes are crafted extremely intelligently making each scene significant contribution to the whole picture. Infact, the dawdling and stretching of a few scenes almost seem like a deliberate attempt to help spawn the emotions of longing and strong desire. The slow movement, extending the scenes in duration work as a metaphor for frozen time, occupied by the drifting smoke from the cigarette or a character walking in a dance-like manner. The camera angles at which this film is shot also contribute largely to the way the audience would interpret this film. The scenes transform in a way that manage to keep the tight and integral parts a peak, also adding to the suspicion and centralized attention of a viewer since only important elements and movements are brought into focus. Throughout the film there is a constant occurrence of mirrors which represent the duplicity of character and story, they make the audience question the deliberate drama as opposed to reality. The basic quality of a mirror as we know is to reflect irony which automatically relates this quality to the nature of the movie which basically revolves around the idea of reflection, where Chao and Chan enact or as one can say attempt to mirror their relations with their spouses and at the same time they are also reflecting the same story of infidelity that their spouses held at the beginning of the film. The use of mirrors also in some ways signifies the multiplicity which relates to the protagonists and their multiplicity of both personality and emotion as well as multiplicity of narratives that continue to be shown parallel to one another. It also enhances the obscure quality of space and feeling of claustrophobia.
Thus the mirrors play a substantial role in establishing the mood of the film. One could easily be fooled by the play rehearsals as being part of the reality and this perplexity really is the best part of the movie.
The theme of indulgence as opposed to the traditional repression is one of great value. It touches the hearts of several, of both opposing views. Whilst the movie ends at a point of lingering, a western perspective might be left bewildered at the extent of repression since the couple is shown to stay apart. However the film subtly says a lot more than just that. It opens a whole new range of though processes and “ifs and buts” while the end credits suddenly come on screen. It presents to you a series of stories or even just one, depending on the way you see it, but either way it closes with a question – a question every one may have a different answer to but yet neither right nor wrong. It is the end of the film but a beginning to a different perspective, not only towards love or infidelity but also an introspective journey questioning choices and decisions.