Music Within A Movie Film Studies Essay

2348 words (9 pages) Essay

1st Jan 1970 Film Studies Reference this

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The most significant element of the high concept film’s style for marketing purpose was the music within the film. At almost the very moment the classical era ended , Film scholar Jeff Smith claim because The Graduate (1967) was the first film use popular music in practices, the film was considered one of the wildly influential film in film history, not only for their depictions of youth alienation, but also for the using new technique of popular music in practices. He has labelled these types of popular music soundtracks that emerged at the end of the 1960s as “compilation scores.” Composed of pre-recorded songs, these scores introduced a new set of musical conventions that would have a profound effect on trailblazing “New Hollywood” 1970s filmmakers such as Martin Scorsese, Peter Bogdanovich, and George Lucas. In the film, Simon and Garfunkel’s music was inseparably linked in the popular imagination; without the song, the meaning of the film may change. The film would not be label as rebellion film. Anyone who taught film may knew that, music from The Graduate (1967) was the pop music all students had to learn for film studies. When Kristin Thompson made a argument on the sound and image relationship, particularly the combination of image and music, he point out music was an especially disruptive element to the unity of a film. He though music has a great potential to call attention to its own formal qualities apart from its immediate function in relation to the image track. Hence I would like to use The Graduate as example to examine the relationship between popular music and image.

When Mike Nichols was planning The Graduate, he heard Simon and Garfunkel’s album parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. He though the type of music may gain more point for Ben’s character. However Simon had great difficulty working on this commission. He got stuck till the shooting of the film was complete and the editing process was to begin. Therefore Nichols had not chose and only could use few songs from Simon’s early album sounds of silence (1966), parsley, sage, rosemary (1966) and a new song ‘Mrs. Robinson’. Nevertheless Simon’s music for The Graduate was a massive success. The Graduate was one of the first box office hits with compilation music on the soundtrack, illustrated some of the narrative problem that arise when films were accompanied by songs, and song text, not originally written for that purposes. The soundtrack album was released one year after the film premiere in February 1968 and ‘Mrs. Robinson’ was the no.1 on the single list for three week.

David Bordwell made an argument of music in high concept film, he thought that when the songs frequently occur in the openings, the music either over the credits or over the first scenes. Narrative information was usually highly concentrated in these opening moments regardless; he commented that ‘credit sequences were very important narrational gestures. These extra fiction passages usually present information in a highly self-conscious and omniscient fashion’.

The opening scene of The Graduate start with a close-up shot of Ben’s emotionless face, and then the camera pulls back to show him with a pond of people on a plane which just landing on Los Angeles International airport and the camera close carefully followed Ben movement again, Ben walking into the airport. When the opening credits start, “The Sounds of Silence” was follow. in “The Sounds of Silence”, ( “People talking without speaking “”People hearing without listening” “People writing songs that voices never share””And no one dared” “Disturb the sound of silence” “Hear my words that I might teach you, “Take my arms that I might reach you.” “But my words like silent raindrops fell”) in those line, Simon aim to show a great contract between lonely narrator with a pond of strangers. Although the song does not write for the movie, but the song highlight Ben as a victim, isolated in the mass society. This was just exactly what Nichol want people to see and feel about Ben in the introduction sense, moreover in the film.

Justin Wyatt argued that outside the opening sense, music could reappear in the high concept film in a localized sense. A song accompanies a sequence, with the music creating a distinct sequence in the film.

“The Sounds of Silence” was played again during a montage sequence in the middle of the film. It summarized Ben’s summer after Graduate. In the sequence, the camera was swift from Ben lolling around his home to having affair with Mrs. Robinson in a hotel room (the wife of Ben’s father’s business partner and a friend of the family). Here the blue song resonates with Ben’s depress manner again, but this time, people gain more meaning form the lyrics than people heard it during the opening sequence. Because this time, people understood why and what Ben was so afraid of. The lyrics specifically express Ben’s alienation from his parents, the world around him. The only companion he had was Mrs. Robinson, the women who he had a sex relationship with but did know much. In this montage sequence, Nichols drew a great attention picture the relationship between Ben with Mrs. Robinson and Ben with Mrs. Braddock. For example, people noticed that when Ben was in swimming pool, his mother dress zebra striped clothes and when Ben lied on bed with Mrs. Robinson, Mrs. Robinson wear a bra with similar kind picture as Ben’s mother wear. I though it may hinted in Ben’s eyes, Mrs. Robinson was more like replacement for Ben’s mother. Moreover, the relationship with Mrs. Robinson mad Ben ever harder to tell anyone his feelings and what was wrong in his life. (“In restless dreams I walked alone, narrowed streets of cobblestone”) express the feelings that how hard he revolt his parents, how close he between his parents. In “But my words like silent raindrops fell, and echoed in the wells of silence.” those line showed Ben became a subject of the film mostly by means of this soundtrack.

However there are many kind of focalization. Because Ben’s sexual affair with Mrs. Robinson was the main focal point of the film. People could read this montage sequence a different way that this song raises his desire to prove his manhood or challenge it under his parents’ authority. Ben stand in a place which he could rebel against what he believed was wrong, rebel against parents’ authority. And in his mind, Mr. Robinsons was his father’s business partners was father figure too. And yet Mrs. Robinson became his first rebel partner. She was a mirror of Ban’s future. Because they both face the same predicament; “The Sounds of Silence” indicated that how lone and helpless she and Ben were. They both imprisoned within the confines of suburban world.

The story repeat itself, and “The Sounds of Silence” repeat it again at the end of the film. As the opening sequence, the camera close- up to shot the back seat, and emphasizes Elaine and Ben’s emotions but their faces were emotionless. And then the camera pans back to a long shot showing the bus running on a tree-lined suburban road. Ben ran in a very odd circle. First, his conscious reject and against suburbia life him and his parent use to live in. second his unconscious took the traditional value as his parent did. At the end of the film, he was in the same position he was in at the beginning. He was still not sure what direction he should go forward. In an article on the function of song in modern Hollywood film, Todd Berliner and Philip Furia argue that the song of silence nevertheless expressed Ben’s loneliness and fear. Edward Brainpan called it as external focalization. People only could experience Ben form the outside, and this may gain less impression of what is going on in his mind. The song of the final appearance was the same as the opening scene “The Sounds of Silence,” critics have remarked on the movie’s depiction of Ben and Elaine’s increasingly worried expressions, as the reality of their actions seems to settle into their faces. The Sounds of Silence” started to play again at this moment; their expressions turn the film from jubilation to anxiety. The blue song again linked to Ben’s sadness, loneliness, and indecision. It worked in tandem with the image to help undermine the otherwise happy ending.

Berliner and Furia also point out that it the Sounds of Silence do not only reply Ben’s though or his belief. This was just how Simon and Garfunkel work in general -as internal songs. The internal songs gave people ‘indirect access to the character’ thoughts’ Berliner and Furia share the view with director that Simon and Garfunkel’s song would not only characterized Ben as person but also function as his mouthpiece or his inner monologue. Many later films have demonstrated that different song can convey different personal character in a partially film character. Berliner and Furia argued that it was very difficult to consider “The Sounds of Silence” was Ben’s inner monologue, because “The Sounds of Silence” was not written for The Graduate. The lyrics were not about Ben. The connection between mean of the lyrics and Ben’s though just in general level.

Three other Simon and Garfunkel songs appear in The Graduate seen none was fit in its context as “The Sounds of Silence.” However Mike Nichols made them worked very well in film.

The only song Simon written for The Graduate was ‘Mrs. Robinson’ if just looked the lyrics, it bear to find an evident relate to the story (“And here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson, Jesus loves you more than you will know”), it just a song name “Mrs. Robinson.” Nothing link to the story. In fact, this most non-expressive song was Simon and Garfunkel written for the film. This may because Simon and Garfunkel knew little about The Graduate and they only could except that one of the characters was named “Mrs. Robinson.”

However, in the film, Nichol gave the song a new meaning. From watching the sequence of “Mrs. Robinson”, by watching the film,I may argue that the song “Mrs. Robinson” clearly comes from a perspective other than Ben’s. In the sequence, the narrative link here is unmistakable; Nichols tried to suggest the big conflict between Ben’s manhood and desire. His desire made his had a sexual relationship that will reaffirm his masculinity. Mrs. Robinson was just the one who guided him into the mystery of sex; therefore “Mrs. Robinson” has entered a new cultural meaning for the film. An old women lead male to understand what desire like. Therefore I thought the large part of the repeated emphasis t the important Mrs. Robinsons for Ben’s life. In the film sequence, people could found out how close connections between the Ben and Mrs. Robinsons.

The song “April Come She Will” was appears just after “The Sounds of Silence” in a montage sequence in the middle of the film that depicts Ben sleeping with Mrs. Robinson. Again, the song’s lyrics do not seem quite fit in the context of the film as the earlier song. Such lines as “May, she will stay, resting in my arms again” was provide an ironic contrast to the affair, and “A love once new has now grown old” not sung for Ben and Mrs. Robinson. They did not pay attention for each other. Ben was emotionless watches television while she dresses and leaves their hotel suite or would it be seen as Ben was ready for a girl and waiting for the love came? He could lift Mrs. Robinson.

“Scarborough Fair” occurs during another montage sequence, playing through the scenes of Ben run after Elaine, when she knew Ben slept with her mother. As she moves back to Berkeley, Simon and Garfunkel’s the English folk song expressed story on one hand was a man who dreamed about winning back his lost love. On the other hand, the song was written for anti- war even. It could see as Ben was looking for a freedom- a way to break away from the reality. Director use it to express the sorrow and longing in a way for winning back his true love (“Remember me to one who lives there”). For example, the lyric “Then she’ll be a true love of mine” played when Ben was sitting at a desk in front of a piece of paper which he had repeatedly written Elaine’s name. If without the picture, just hear song, they could interpret the song in different way.

As classical-era musicals, Mike Nichols used those pop songs for express the psychological interiority of a character; moreover, Mike Nichols used the Simon and Garfunkel’s lyric to establish a connection between a character and the film’s spectators, giving them an easier way to access the character’s thoughts by means of song. Indeed the actor’s very taciturn performance allows for the musical intrusion: The lyric says what Ben’s though and what he felt of the mass society. Difference from classical music’s “can’t sing,” the lyric of pop song becomes an interior monologue of the character. The convention of “internal song,” then, gives audiences another means of indirect access to the characters’ thoughts. In that way, such songs oppose the tradition of songs in movie musicals, signifying not the relief that comes through musical expression but rather the frustration of a character with inadequate means or occasions to express him.

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