Working backwards!

I read a chapter recently that covered a lot of what I’ve been considering in this blog: Sound and Empathy: Subjectivity, Gender and the Cinematic Soundscape written by Robynn J. Stilwell. (Stilwell 2005)

Stilwell briefly examines the association between sound and the feminine – something which has never occurred to me before and which I found quite fascinating!  She does – as something of a disclaimer – allude to the tendency of Western thought towards the binary (sound = female; vision = male, or, objective = male, subjective = female, etc).

In the second half of the chapter, Stilwell uses the film Closet Land as a vehicle to explore the potential of soundscape in the cinema, proposing that it is the sound design in this film that takes the viewer beyond the experience of watching a play with one set and two actors (which, otherwise, it could be).

She picks out many interesting sound devices, firmly rooted in the psyche (the place strongly associated with the feminine in this story) as well as examining the use of the score.

I watched the film this evening – working backwards, as it often makes more sense to read the commentary after watching! – and noticed many of the things she alluded to.  It certainly was a disturbing film!  I did wonder as I watched if the organised sound that is Richard Einhorn’s score could be said to align with the paranoid, totalitarian fictional government in opposition to the more primal, perhaps more honest bits of non-musical sound design that originate clearly from the point of audition of the female protagonist being interrogated.   That said, as the film progresses and the agent of government fails to invade the female protagonist’s clear mind, this alignment appeared to cease and it is a very different musical ambiance heard at the end.  I may need to watch it again (great, more torture…!) to examine this first impression more closely.

STILWELL, R.J.  (2005) Sound and Empathy: Subjectivity, Gender and the Cinematic Soundscape.  In Furby, J. & Randell, K. (Eds) , Screen methods: comparative readings in film studies. Wallflower: London.

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