Skip to main content
main-content

Über dieses Buch

The Musicality of Narrative Film is the first book to examine in depth the film/music analogy. Using comparative analysis, Kulezic-Wilson explores film's musical potential, arguing that film's musicality can be achieved through various cinematic devices, with or without music.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

The Topography of Film Musicality

Frontmatter

1. Introduction

‘Film is like music’, we often hear. It is one of cinema’s most enduring analogies and is usually understood simply as a metaphor. Yet, since its birth, film has not only been compared to music, but it has also been explained through the use of musical terms and even conceived and structured using music as a model. From the French school of Impressionists to the MTV generation of directors, filmmakers as diverse as Sergei Eisenstein, Jean-Luc Godard, Sergio Leone, David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick, Martin Scorsese, Mike Figgis and many others have been inspired by music and stimulated to think about film in musical terms. While it is now accepted that at the very beginning the comparison with music was motivated by the need to challenge the general view of film as cheap entertainment and to demonstrate its artistic importance, what inspired this comparison in the first place is the fact that both music and film are arts that unfold in time, generating a sense of movement and rhythm. Over the years, various interpretations and versions of the ‘musical metaphor’ applied to film have appeared in both theory and practice, but in the last few decades this idea received fresh impetus thanks to a new generation of filmmakers whose notable musical sensibility is not only displayed in carefully assembled soundtracks or musically edited sequences but also in the internal logic of their films.

Danijela Kulezic-Wilson

2. Music as Model and Metaphor

The tendency to elevate music to the status of a model for another art is not specific to film and has a very long history. Although the notion of music as the greatest art to which all other arts aspire has often been regarded as distinctly Romantic, music has always held a rather special place in the history of human culture. Abstract, perishable and yet extremely powerful, music has had all sorts of attributes and meanings ascribed to it. Its elusiveness has allowed music to become a Rorschach test of human civilization onto which artists, writers and scientists have projected the most current and daring ideas of their times, including an explanation of the universe1 and the idea of music as a measure of all other arts.

Danijela Kulezic-Wilson

Comparative Analysis of Music and Film

Frontmatter

3. The Musicality of Film Rhythm

Rhythm is a truly ubiquitous phenomenon that permeates all manifestations of life in the universe. Biological rhythms govern all the processes in our body, from the continuous pulse of the beating heart and the rhythm of breathing to the body’s responses to external cyclical rhythms of nature manifested in the succession of day and night, lunar influences, the change of seasons and so on. Rhythm is connected with movement and as such has been inherent to practically all of man’s activities, from sex to speech and social exchanges. As Walther Dürr (1981, p. 182) says, the whole world that surrounds us reveals itself in rhythmic forms, and it is not surprising that this universal phenomenon is also reflected in the arts. Rhythm is an essential part in structuring any art form and as the most reliable parameter for measuring space and time, rhythm also acts as the common denominator for all arts. Considering that music rhythm has been studied in more depth than the rhythm of any other art,1 using music as a reference point to understand and define rhythm in film seems a natural first step. In pursuit of an integral definition of film rhythm, I will look at previous attempts to address this aspect of film and will use research from Gestalt psychology about the perception of groupings to further illuminate this topic.

Danijela Kulezic-Wilson

4. The Rhythm of Rhythms

If constitutive rhythm manifests itself in the inner pulse of the content, then structural rhythm, or ‘the rhythm of rhythms’ (Alvarez, 1989, p. 221), refers to the distribution and pacing of that content within the formal framework — the aspect concerned with presenting it to the outer world and ensuring the strongest possible response to it. Structural rhythm is concerned with questions of how: how are different formal units organized; how are their relationships defined; and how do they create a dynamic structure? In order to illuminate the relevance of these questions and the comparative qualities of the answers regarding both music and film, this chapter will explore the methods involved in the creation of rhythmic form and the similarities between their use in music and film. I will focus particularly on repetition and patterning as the most basic and simultaneously most efficient methods of establishing rhythmic form in both arts because their significance stretches beyond formal issues of structuring, affecting questions concerning the emotional power of art, aesthetics and ideology.

Danijela Kulezic-Wilson

5. Musical and Film Kinesis

One of the reasons for the extensive discussion about rhythm in the previous chapters was to investigate the most obvious common denominator of music and film, as both arts share distinctive traits in this area. However, beyond the comparison of similarities of rhythmical structures on the micro and macro levels in the two arts lies another reason for this discussion, as there is another purpose to rhythm itself: the sense of movement it generates.

Danijela Kulezic-Wilson

6. The Symbolic Nature of Musical and Film Time

It might seem surprising that only after discussing the rhythm and movement of music and film do we come to the subject of time which, due to its all-encompassing nature, seems like a natural place to start. However, I deliberately left this chapter to the end of the theoretical discussion because the issues surrounding the subject of time are at the core of not only art creation and experience but also the experience of life itself. Time is one of those subjects that, being woven into the most mysterious aspects of life’s fabric, naturally takes our discussion about art into the realms of philosophy, aesthetics and, as we will see in this chapter, even spirituality. Consequently, the comparative analysis of music and film in this chapter will be only partly founded on sensual and perceptual notions of musicality; of more pressing concern here is the question of how certain philosophies of time influence similar aesthetic approaches in both music and film.

Danijela Kulezic-Wilson

Case Studies

Frontmatter

7. Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man and the Rhythm of Musical Form

By closing the circle of overlapping themes of time, rhythm and kinesis in music and film we come to the stage where all the available findings and conclusions about film’s musicality and the ways of achieving it can be demonstrated integrally in individual case studies. The first two of these studies — Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man and Darren Aronofsky’s π — come from the tradition of American independent cinema, a strange and elusive beast in the biggest movie jungle in the world which has been celebrated by many filmophiles, renounced by its auteurs and pronounced dead or even non-existent by press and scholars many times in the last few decades. The term ‘independent’ in relation to American film has been alternately used to mark either economic or aesthetic and stylistic independence from the mainstream, or both, thus causing sometimes contradictory or ambiguous uses of the term (Hillier, 2001; Wood, 2004); but most importantly it has become a savvy marketing term that studios use these days to promote films which are perceived as being somehow ‘edgy’ or ‘controversial’.

Danijela Kulezic-Wilson

8. Hip Hop and Techno Composing Techniques and Models of Structuring in Darren Aronofsky’s π

Unlike Jarmusch, for whom artistic and economic independence are non-negotiable conditions for all of his projects — which has also limited the scale of his budgets — Darren Aronofsky never made it a secret that he saw his ‘guerrilla’ beginnings only as a step towards the opportunity to work on big, studio-financed films. After his debut feature π won Aronofsky the Best Director Prize at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival and his next film Requiem for a Dream brought an Oscar nomination to one of its stars, Ellen Burstyn, Aronofsky tried his luck with big budget films first by working on a development of the new Batman movie — which would later make Christopher Nolan (Batman Begins, 2005) a household name — then the ill-fated The Fountain (2006),1 before finally receiving worldwide success with Black Swan (2010). However, Aronofsky’s new-found status does not change the fact that π was conceived and realized as a complete ‘indie’, shot in black-and-white for $60,000, revealing an original new talent with an already recognizable and soon-to-be imitated style. Most importantly in this context, Aronofsky’s debut was inspired by hip hop and techno music; it applied various techniques and models of structuring typical of those musical genres in the editing, employment of different cameras and shooting techniques, sound design, music and in the organization of the micro- and macrostructures, which resulted in π’s overtly musical audio-visual style.

Danijela Kulezic-Wilson

9. Audio-Visual Musicality and Reflexivity in Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina

In one of the minor episodes in Tolstoy’s novel Anna Karenina, Anna and Vronsky, while travelling abroad, visit the studio of their compatriot, the painter Mikhaylov, in order to commission a portrait of Anna. They bestow the usual compliments on the artist’s work but one of Vronsky’s casual remarks about his technique ‘grates painfully on Mikhaylov’s heart’, prompting a paragraph-long reflection on the distinction between technique and content. Mikhaylov ‘had often noticed’, says Tolstoy (1999, p. 471), ‘that technique was contrasted with inner quality, as if it were possible to paint well something that was bad …. the most experienced and technical painter could never paint anything by means of mechanical skill alone, if the outline of the subject-matter did not first reveal itself to his mind’.

Danijela Kulezic-Wilson

Conclusion

Conclusion

It might be a strange thing to admit in the concluding pages of a book that argues for recognizing the musical potential of film, but my idea to explore film musicality initially came from my increasing awareness of the musicality of contemporary theatre, particularly Complicite productions directed by Simon McBurney which are governed by a perpetual fluidity affecting actors, props and all contributing media. It was interesting, then, that when I was preparing to write the last chapter of this book a film appeared — Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina — which convincingly and virtuosically integrates the practice of musicalized theatre in the medium of film. However, it is not only the last case study of this book that illustrates the importance of cross-fertilization. The other two case studies and many other films discussed in this book suggest that exposing film to influences from other arts and media — be that hip hop, poetry, techno music or the abstract idea of musicality — opens up a space for innovation and the creation of new modes of perception that transcend familiar experiences of art consumption. Hip hop editing, audio-visual musique concrète, examples of rhythmicized form, musicalized speech and various other stylistic choices and devices are all created by combining influences from different arts and popular culture and they all promote boundary-busting qualities typical of art hybridity and intermedia relationships.

Danijela Kulezic-Wilson

Backmatter

Weitere Informationen

BranchenIndex Online

Die B2B-Firmensuche für Industrie und Wirtschaft: Kostenfrei in Firmenprofilen nach Lieferanten, Herstellern, Dienstleistern und Händlern recherchieren.

Whitepaper

- ANZEIGE -

Die Corporate Supply Strategy bei Phoenix Contact GmbH & Co. KG

Lesen Sie am Beispiel von Phoenix Contact, wie der Einkauf in einem weltweit agierenden Industrieunternehmen mit dezentralen Einkaufsstrukturen mit der 15M-Architektur der Supply-Strategie strategisch ausgerichtet werden kann.
Jetzt gratis downloaden!

Bildnachweise