BBC - Mark Kermode's film blog

« Previous | Main | Next »

Sound And Vision

Post categories:

Mark Kermode Mark Kermode | 14:30 UK time, Friday, 20 July 2012

I've just programmed a season of films highlighting the crucial relationship between image and sound in cinema. Which movies exemplify this best for you?

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions. If you're reading via RSS, you'll need to visit Mark's blog to view the video.


Related Posts on Kermode Uncut
The Artist

Mark's reviews on 5 live
Watch Mark's latest reviews

Hear Mark Kermode review the week's new films every Friday from 2pm on BBC Radio 5 live. Kermode & Mayo's Film Review is also available as a free podcast to download and keep.



Page 1 of 3

  • Comment number 1.

    Magnolia does some astonishing things with a swirling soundtrack that crashes over scenes and even stops the entire cast at one point, so they can sing along. It might be sneered at for being pretentious these days, but I think it works brilliantly.

    I also have to mention Texas Chainsaw Massacre's frenetic screeches and bangs, and Irreversible's howling soundcapes. Both movies dragged your ears to dark, almost unlistenable places. In a good way.

  • Comment number 2.

    For a film that has sound and visuals that beautifully compliment each other look no further than Blade Runner. An obvious choice i'm sure, but Vangelis' haunting score just oozes Sci-Fi. Whether its the opening soundtrack, the wonderful piano piece Memories Of Green or the fantastic 'Love Theme' played beautifully on the saxophone by Vangelis himself. Masterful.

  • Comment number 3.

    I think the perfect example of vision, and sound working in harmony. Is "No Country For Old Men", or any Coen Bros film really.

    But I would pick that film, as it demonstrates the Coen's understanding of how to create tension with use of sound, but its not a cheaply constructed tension, as we have seen with so many horror films, *quiet, quiet, quiet... Door banging!* finishing with me dropping my kettle chips, carrot sticks, and rice cakes on the floor of the cinema! Creating even more noise!

    In "No Country..." a simple scene, of a man walking past a door in total darkness, and silence. Having the silence broken by the clicking of the hammer on the shotgun... The tension is too much to handle!

  • Comment number 4.

    Once Apon A Time In The West: The images and sounds of the opening scene which highlighted the monotony of waiting and elevated the normally easy to filter out noises made by flies and a squeaky windmill. Then the way the music, the camera and the actors movements were synched and of course the little matter of a harmonica tune. Leone was always good at contrasting images and sounds.

  • Comment number 5.

    2001 A Space Odyssey. Enough said.

  • Comment number 6.

    I think like Wall-E, There Will be Blood marries both sound and vision together perfectly. The first sequence in the film owes a debt to silent cinema and the Oscars made another huge mistake by not nominating Jonny Greenwood for his brilliant score.

  • Comment number 7.

    Ry Cooder’s haunting and powerful soundtrack for Paris, Texas is a perfect accompaniment to the images on screen and the way the story unfolds. The harmonious relationship between the incredible imagery and that wonderful soundtrack is deeply moving.

    Remember Mark, it is 'John Carter' not 'John Carter of Mars'. God! Get it right.

  • Comment number 8.

    Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket. Pretty much the second half of that film where the platoon enters into the battle torn urban landscape of Hue (in reality Beckton gas works) The moments of absolute silence add to the anxiety of the soldiers on screen. The build of suspence in those silent moments are pierced through by loud machine gun fire and only when an enemy is gunned down, the tension of the audience slowly dissapears with Surfin' Bird played over the soundtrack.

    As Nick_Hughes has mentioned; Once Upon a Time in the West is a fantastic example and absolutely No one can argue with the choice of 2001.

  • Comment number 9.

    Also glad you chose to screen The Conversation. A magnificant and disturbing film that sadly gets more releavent as time goes on.

  • Comment number 10.

    A couple of films spring to mind:

    Firstly, Amenabar's The Others. Half the reason why that is a horror film that works is the way the sound builds the tension of the scenes, adding a chilling creepiness to the atmosphere tone of the film, added with the haunting musical score, going along with the gothic, melancholic production design and the brilliant central performance of Kidman and it all adds to a genuinely creepy experience.

    Of course The Others would not have been possible without Jack Clayton's sublime The Innocents and Robert Wise's The Haunting both of which utilize sound to incredible effect, making the audience feel that there is something there lurking in the shadows, creating a sense of dread and letting our own imaginations go to work.

    All these films proving that the scariest thing in the world are our own imaginations.

  • Comment number 11.

    Definitely Elem Klimov's Come and See. One of the best war films ever, the use of sound and the horror it produces is matched only by David Lynch's masterpieces. A must-see in this case.

  • Comment number 12.

    ah, this one's easy, Mark

    I give you two ultimate movies that combine sound and vision:



    Singing in the Rain

  • Comment number 13.

    Das Boot when U-96 is being depth charged when it suddenly goes quiet the crew breath a sigh of relief before they hear the ping of the destroyer's ASDIC against the hull before they are attacked begins again.

  • Comment number 14.

    There are many films that create a perfect harmony and image and sound, but one of the reasons I love the soundtracks in films like Goodfellas is for deliberately doing the opposite. The tracks in the film are often completely incidentel to whats happening on screen, with songs like Gimme Shelter or Sympathy for the Devil being played while the most horrendous acts of violents play out before the audience, giving the film the same nonchalant attitude towards violence and death as the characters themselves. For me it made those scenes all the more sinister, and all the more effective because of it.

  • Comment number 15.

    Tarkovsky's "Stalker" (1979).
    Wong Kar-wai's "2046" (2004).

    Pretty much opposite ends of the spectrum.

  • Comment number 16.

    The Thing (1980) - crucially one of the scariest and most impressive facets of the film is the sounds, particularly when the 'creature' is transmogrifying(?) between its hosts and turning into ever-more bizarre and frightening manifestations - lots of crunching and cracking of limbs and bones! There's one scene in particular when the character of Windows has just been chomped and begins to transform - it's a weird, almost robotic, sound he makes and it is far and away the most spine-chilling moment of what is already a a damn near-perfect horror film.

    Alien - the desolate, windswept backdrop to the planet they land on, plus the muffled sound of the characters' voices in their spacesuits, always gives me the willies when I watch it, especially alone late at night...

    Also, agree with Come & See above too - there's one bit where the sound almost completely disappears and all the action is in the young lead's face. Impeccable acting and directing!

  • Comment number 17.

    I know it's a cliché but '2001: A Space Odyssey' is probably the most mainstream cine-literate film made after the silent era. The sequence that stands out the most for me anyway is the sequence where Dave is transported into another dimension. The mesmeric 'slit-scan' visuals and jarring Ligeti score collide to create a truly visceral and transcendent experience that only cinema can evoke.

  • Comment number 18.

    In the early 30's with the advent of sound Hollywood became fixated on voices whereas European film makers were using sound for psychological effect. Think of Lang's 'M' where you hear the killer whistling 'Hall of the Mountain King' before you see him, Peter Lorre's screechy voice, the end where the killer is trapped in the office block hearing the gangsters breaking down doors as they get closer to him.

    Carl Theodor Dreyer's Vampyr, a virtually wordless film the sound track is animal noises, bird song, clanking machinery, screeching of rusted joints all combine to create a dream like but unsettling atmosphere.

    Just to echo an above comment the scene in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre when leatherface kills the boy with a mallet is more horrific for the sound of sqealling pigs on the sound track than the act of violence itself.

  • Comment number 19.

    I love the use of muffling and water emersion in the diving suit scene from the Graduate. What better way to demonstrate Dustin Hoffman's isolation than by providing a measure of audio sensory deprivation, especially combined with the visual aspect of seeing through that stifling diving mask and hearing that slow, laboured breathing through the apparatus. As someone who is mildly claustrophobic, that scene always gives me a bit of a sinking feeling.

  • Comment number 20.

    Sergio Leone was a master of creating that connection between sound & image. The best example is Once Upon A Time In America, & the scene with that monstrous telephone ringing over & over (24 times in fact - with the gaps in between subtlely altered by Leone to enhance the disturbing impact of it). The film is a tour de force of sound motifs over image.

  • Comment number 21.

    I think it has to be a tie between Suspiria and Blade Runner, neither of which would be anywhere near as good without the incredible soundtracks...I think Goblin's soundtrack for Suspiria is especially brilliant considering, I think, they made it before the film was shot, and yet everything fits perfectly, as if its meant to be there, moulded into shape, it doesn't sound like an afterthought at all...the soundtrack largely contributes to making what is for once a genuinely horrifying, uncomfortable, disorienting watch everytime...

    As for Blade Runner, I don't think anyone could have more perfectly complimented Ridley's paradoxically beautiful vision of a grim, rainy dark future dystopia...Everytime I watch the film or listen to Vangelis' soundtrack by itself it never fails to blow me away and suck me into its timeless cyberpunk world

  • Comment number 22.

    Wow, sounds like a great program. I selfishly hope you'll repeat the Blackmail silent with N Brand score at a future New Forest Film Festival.

    The Black Stallion springs to mind with its long wordless section of boy and horse stranded, magical expression of non verbal communication between species. Stunning cinematography and the sparseness of natural sound, the wind, water and whinnying. In a slightly similar vein, that is communication pared to the bare minimum with natural sound, and striking visuals, Nic Roeg's Walkabout.

    From the natural to the thoroughly un- Tetsuo: The Iron Man, not a film I ever warmed to, but undoubtedly has a soundtrack to match its weird body horror nightmare visuals.

    Altered States Ken Russell's visuals a vocabulary of hallucination, religion, lust, taboo and the ultimate, with John Corrigliano's amazing discordant soundtrack which resolves into one of the most tender love themes in film. I was about to dither about a list of Russell's including Tommy and Mahler then realized Altered States is the daddy in terms of your question, though you couldn't go far wrong with much of Ken's catalogue.

  • Comment number 23.

    It might be slightly out of left field, but the film that has drawn my attention to the sound the most over the past few years is Dr Kermode's best film of 2011- We Need To Talk About Kevin.

    Jonny Greenwood's minimalist score of strange electronic, yet ethereal sounds almost seamlessly blend in with the diegetic noises. The perfect example of this being in the opening as the score seems to encompass the noise of what is later revealed to be the sprinkler outside. Another moment that springs to mind is when Kevin is eating the pickled onions as the noise is amplified to a grotesque extent to allow the audience to feel the irritation and disgust of Eva. All of this creates an eerie tension that would, in my opinion, have otherwise been lacking in the picture had there been a more 'traditional' score. On top of this the songs from Buddy Holly and Lonnie Donegan would seem out of place, but instead they contribute to the sense of anxiety that is present throughout the whole film.

    Also thanks to that film I will never hear Wham's 'Last Christmas' the same ever again.

  • Comment number 24.

    Hi Mark, a possibly less obvious suggestion but I think Jurassic Park is a fine example of "Sight & Sound" being used to excellent effect on a cinema screen. Be it the opening scene, whereby the keeper is dragged into the raptor pen or the famous scene where the sound of the approaching t-rex is reflected in the image of the ripples in the cup of water. I remember, as a 12 year old, watching it at the cinema and being terrorfied and excited in equal measure. Another suggestion would be last year's excellent Senna. The simple combination of the car's engines and blurred visuals, from the driver perspective, was breath-taking. Especially in the climatic scenes of Ratzenberger and Senna.

  • Comment number 25.

    "Requiem for a Dream". Mundane, everyday sounds became a feature of the scenes. They become the rhythm the images are following. Not to mention the soundtrack.

  • Comment number 26.

    Donnie Darko: from the opening track, INXS Never Tear Us Apart, to Andrews/Jules version of Mad World at the climax, the soundtrack serves the dual purpose of highlighting individual scenes and setting the late 80s era, never missing a step.

  • Comment number 27.

    The Shining is scary enough with the sound off, but I can't look further than Danny pedalling his tricycle through the corridors of The Overlook hotel.

    The rumble of the wheels on the floorboards, then the muffled sound they make on the carpet, then floorboards again, then carpet, etc. It makes for an ominous soundtrack - especially when he finally turns a corner and encounters the twin girls!

  • Comment number 28.

    The Exorcist, for making tangible the special relationship between voice and body, artificially sutured together on screen as sound and image.
    Also good: Klute (the killers tape recording as a tool to terrorise his victim with) and Blow Out (Travolta's tape recording as a witness to a conspiracy). Both of these and The Conversation seem indebted to the Watergate Tapes scandal.

  • Comment number 29.

    The first thing I thought of after seeing your blog was Julian Temple's 'The Filth and the Fury'. Temple's choice to show The Sex Pistols in silhouette certainly made me recognise that the voice ages slower than the body. In presenting them in this way we were able to listen to their tales, see their exploits at the time and somehow never view them as aged or outdated. It went a long way to capture the moment in time that they burned brightest without sullying the impact they had with the dim glow they have given off since. Butter anyone?

  • Comment number 30.

    Your question is so simplistic Mark. If you look at all of Terrence Malick's films especially The Tree of Life, you will notice that pays great attention to detail to image and sound. His visual style is far better than that of Kubrick. The only person who ever came close to Malick's standard was Paul Thomas Anderson on There Will Be Blood which had Jonny Greenwood's blazing score create a certain feeling of pain towards many scenes most notably the beginning. Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey was good at the combination of sound and image but it lack a certain evocation of human touch that Malick's films have had.

  • Comment number 31.

    I would say that Tsai Ming-liang is great at making films with a fantastic relationship between image and sound. Goodbye Dragon Inn is a great example where there is no spoken word in the 1st 45 mins, but the image speaks for itself as words are not needed to explain what your seeing. I would also say that Apichatpong Weerasethakul's films, such as Syndromes and A Century uses image and sound in a very detailed and sublime way that draw us in and my last suggested director is Kim Ki-duk and his films such as 3-Iron, with no spoken word by the main character and Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring using the sounds of nature to convey meanings and metaphors in a spritual way and not letting too many spoken words interferring with what was important.

  • Comment number 32.

    There Will Be Blood definitely comes to mind. The scene where Daniel Plainview is celebrating the oil discovery while the baby is crying at the beginning of the movie accompanied with the screeching sound is a good example.

  • Comment number 33.

    Doctor, shame on you for not mentioning the contemporary master who seamlessly blends sound and vision on both an epic and intimate scale to wonderful effect. I'm talking of course about Michael Mann. He really is someone who embraces new technology with musical progression and then combines it with tried and tested filming techniques to create and incredibly personal and visceral experience. Think Manhunter's electric symphony, with Graham's intense dream sequences or Reba's tiger embrace. Think Thief's Tangerine Dream soundtrack played out against the dramatic opening safe break. But most all think about Heat and my personal favorite scene, Hanna's car speeding along an exquisite L.A landscape on a collision course with Neil, all played out to Moby's cover of Joy Division's New Dawns Fade. Class!

  • Comment number 34.

    Oh, please, Mark. It's astonishing how frequently you will avoid from acknowledging Stanley Kubrick's 1968 science fiction masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey whenever you review a topic with as large a correlation to the film, particularly when it has any relation to Silent Running as well. First, you compare Silent Running to 2001, which is about as foolish as comparing a Warhol piece to the Mona Lisa, and now you completely waltz around 2001 when it's perhaps the one true film that exemplifies what you call the cinematic connection between "sight and sound". Better yet, WALL-E undoubtedly has 2001 in its veins, along with Silent Running; unfortunately, due to your laughable childhood bias towards the latter, the brilliance that is 2001 just seems to fly straight over your head.

  • Comment number 35.

    The Opening of Woody Allen's Manhattan gives a great sense of nostalgia and places you in New York just by playing Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue over establishing shots of various locations of the Big Apple. Did it for me and powerfully put across a love of the city we all know Allen has. Great opening for a movie, a shame not many are given opening credits anymore, this really moved me.

  • Comment number 36.

    The comment above mine just beat me to mention Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood, a film (particularly in it's opening silent monologue but throughout) shows you images that with silence would have you in neutral but with the addition of the Greenwood's music manipulates the viewer's reaction. The results or baffling, sensational, unnerving, and downright terrifying. There Will Be Blood, with its melding of sound and image is all those things and to sum it up simply just witness the opening 20 seconds as the perfect example.

    On opening night as the film's title card vanished and Greenwood's music seeps into the film with the accompanying wide angle lens showing us the vast California hills...I've never been so terrified in the cinema. At the time I couldn't explain why but I know what I felt.

    Anderson and Greenwood create an nightmarish illogical atmosphere that penetrates almost on a subconscious level much like Ingmar Bergman similarly created with his films Persona and Hour of the Wolf.

    When asked what the scariest things i've witnessed in films my answers are:

    Mulholland Drive's Twinkies's Diner scene
    The opening shot of desert in There Will Be Blood

    Sounds daft doesn't it, but you've seen both Mark so you can vouch for me and many others sharing these examples.

  • Comment number 37.

    From the beloved Sorceror's Apprentice to the eerie Night on Bald Mountain, Fantasia's tribute to the biggest and best of classical music still represents a huge milestone in film-making history. As if it weren't enough to test the limits of animation to the full, the film also weds sound and vision in a fashion so unprecedented that I'm surprised you hadn't thought of it sooner. Frankly, I'm awaiting an adequately reasoned response if not an outright apology.

  • Comment number 38.

    You should've included Le Quattro Volte, the best silent film of last year.

  • Comment number 39.

    In my humble opinion, The Conversation is Coppola's most perfect film.

  • Comment number 40.

    Ravenous... Micheal Nyman and Damon Albarn's slightly off-key and fully unhinged soundtrack beautifully adds a sense of wrongness to what could otherwise be perceived as ordinary, or even idyllic vistas.

  • Comment number 41.

    I'd offer up "The Forbidden Planet" a movie which, thanks Louis and Bebe Barron's sound production which, I think uniquely, merges sound effects and score rendering the distinction between the two irrelevant. The "Electronic Tonalities" credit they received probably reflects and encapsulates more accurately what they achieved, than a credit for "music" ever could. They produced something which defines the entire atmosphere of the film- nothing better demonstrates this than effects / music they created to accompany the invisible "Monster of the Id". Their monster conveys a better of sense relentless discomfort, of it being something which exists, but just beyond the edge of a half forgotten nightmare, than when it is actually revealed.

  • Comment number 42.

    Obviously you've mentioned Eraserhead, but the soundscape of Mulholland Drive is sheer perfection. Those ominous rumbles, that quietly sweeping thems, and those disembodied horn parps in the Silencio still send shivers down my spine.

  • Comment number 43.

    This is proving to be an excellent topic for a blog, so bravo Dr K.
    A special mention should go to Lawrence of Arabia, Win Ryder did some extraordinary work, the sound of camels hoves on sand, the distinctive CRACK of gun shots and the "shooosh" sound when Lawrence blows out the match and it's carried over into a shot of the sun rising.

    Two scenes that illustrate your point, Lawrence and Faraj have been walking through endless desert when they come to a derelict hut, the door banging open and shut in the wind, the inexplicably we hear the sound of a ships horn.

    The other has an act of sexual violence being conveyed simply by having the sound of flogging and beating stop and deathly silence follow.

  • Comment number 44.

    I feel 2001: A Space Odyssey to be unjustly dismissed. I've been a huge fan for a long time but it took me a while to realise how close the movie resembles a silent film with its accompanying score and extremely minimal dialogue.

    I guess it's not too surprising it's been left out as we know (not being facitious) that Kermode is a bigger fan of the ironically more dialogue heavy SILENT Running.

  • Comment number 45.

    Some recent films that have had great soundtracks, which when isolated stand on their own
    The Prestiege, which had a great low, rumbling ambient score
    The Fountain, with a score by the Kronos Quartet and Mogwai
    Insomnia ( original with Stellan Skarsgård) and a score by Biosphere

    I'll have to mention Jerry Goldsmith's 2 classic scores for Planet of the Apes and Alien, so distinctive and so different!
    Alien's haunting, atonal intro still sends shivers down my spine, and Planet of the Apes' horns and percussion in the hunt/chase scenes...

    Morricone's The Mission and The Thing scores, polar opposites ( 'scuse the pun!)
    The Mission's stirring orchestral work and the Thing's icy, chilling synthetic pulses and dark strings, both brilliantly suited to each film, and you thought I could forget The Good The Bad and The Ugly? the archetypal, twanging Spaghetti Western score!

  • Comment number 46.

    I'd like to offer up Darren Aronofsky's "The Fountain" which I consider to be one of the few films I've ever seen which is "experienced" rather than simply watched. It's a vivid painting of sound and light that enthrals and enchants and is, for me, an indicator of what cinema can truly achieve - an art form so far beyond mere entertainment.

  • Comment number 47.

    David Fincher's Seven springs to mind. Apart from the Coens' frequent collaboration with Skip Levsey, I can't think of another director who stresses the importance of collaboration with a sound designer - in Fincher's case Ren Klyce. The sounds of the disturbing, rain-soaked city in Seven play a massive role in creating the overwhelmingly oppressive atmosphere in the film.

    And before The Artist, there was always Singing in the Rain's depiction of Hollywood's shift from silent to talkie cinema. The film's use of both the connection and disconnection between sound and image is part of what makes it one of the best films every made for me!

    I was fortunate to see Neil Brandt performing a piano soundtrack to the 1928 silent Shooting Stars over a decade ago. It still ranks as the best soundtrack I've ever experienced. No deafening THX-Dolby-Dynamic-Digital-bowel-slackening-bass booming-500-speaker-bombardment can compete with the magical atmosphere created by one talented musician, a piano and a silent film.

  • Comment number 48.

    Lots of people picking things for their score - this isn't about the film score, it's about the sound design, a very different thing, and how that sound works together with the image.

    The Conversation is probably one of the finest examples, although De Palma's Blow Out is also up there with it too, as a film that is all about what you hear, or think you've heard, or might have heard, buried in the recording.

    Pretty much any Lynch film is a union of sound and vision, even if you leave aside Badalamenti's scores. For me, Fire Walk With Me is one of the finest examples, if only because every single sound is there for a purpose - from the dialogue and the drones, the pink room sequence with the barely audible dialogue, to the talking monkey with it's cryptic one word.

  • Comment number 49.

    I would offer "Fist of Legend" starring Jet Li. The fights are choreographed so they have a visual flair, but they are also choreographed to give them rhythm. There is something very musical about the fights, and you can close your eyes and still feel the energy, power, movement through the rhythms of the flesh pounding sounds. These sounds take the visually stunning flurries of thrusts and parries, and imbues them not only with a visceral quality, but also a lyricism that mostly disappears if you only watch.

  • Comment number 50.

    I agree completely with dragliner78 and could not of commented on the subject any better.
    As a big fan of horror movies and martial arts flicks i find sound effects play a big part in both of these genres.
    One score that i believe transcends just being a mere soundtrack though, and is integral to the movie as a whole is that by Goblin for Dario Argento's Suspiria.

  • Comment number 51.

    Hard at times to distinguish between use of sound and use of music. You almost managed not to include music in your list Dr K, then you spoiled it by mentioning the silent version of Blackmail with a new score… Best soundtracks are probably best kept to another thread.

    Effective use of sound – or silence – in movies.

    ZULU. Amazing movie for many reasons.
    John Barry’s main theme is of course famous, but Barry only wrote 17 minutes of music for the entire film, he knew when to let the sound design do its job unaided.

    The sound of the spears rattling against shields in the distance to indicate the Zulus are coming; later the triple thump of the spears against shields by the Zulus as they prepare to charge.
    The cries of the war chiefs directing their troops and the climatic sing-off between the Zulus and the Welsh troops. A battle movie with lots of singing! But it worked.
    Even when the music restarts (in the middle of a battle) it begins very quietly and builds slowly. (Compare that with, say, a Hans Zimmer score that gives us an entire symphony orchestra at full blast for the entire running time.)

    The drone of the crop dusting plane in North by North West. Inconsequential at first but then getting louder…

    Much of Alien makes use of sound over dialogue or music; the last 20 minutes or so are almost wordless.

    The scene from Delicatessen where the creaking bedsprings from the amorous couple affect everyone in the house. (Or the sound of the orgasms in Amelie)

    The car horn at the end of Chinatown – it tells us exactly what has happened before we see it.

    Wall-E. The sparse sounds (dialogue) between the two main bots is better than pages of dialogue. Elissa Knight’s varying inflections on Waleeee in particular

    Star Wars – light sabres, R2D2 and much more.

    Apocalypse Now - the helicopters, then Ride of the Valkyries set against the near-silent village starting its day.
    The opening scene of Once Upon A Time in The West. No dialogue or music; the sounds of a fly buzzing around, water dripping, the odd creak etc. and the sound of a steam train approaching.
    For a long scene consisting of three men not doing much it really builds tension. (OUATITW had Moriconne’s wonderful score too but that’s a different topic.)

    Texas Chainsaw Massacre. That door wrenched open to show leatherhead with a hammer - KPOW – then slamming shut.

    Finally; where sound effects fuses with the score. Full Metal Jacket.
    Kubrick’s daughter Abigail Mea

  • Comment number 52.

    Brian De Palma's Blow Out is a very good example of great sound and Foley recording.

  • Comment number 53.

    Oops. I went over the word limit. #51.

    Finally; where sound effects fuses with the score. Full Metal Jacket.
    Kubrick’s daughter Abigail Mead produced the original score (Kubrick also used pop & marine corps songs) for Full Metal Jacket using synthesizers, creating eerie atonal sounds. Most memorably used in the final sniper battle.

  • Comment number 54.

    I think the song is Milly the Moocher in the Blues Brothers where I think it's part that's diegetic (in the Auditorium) and non-diegetic (outside). I loved the way what I think should have been the should have been the non-diegetic part and the actors were moving in sync with the music.

    Also, Stuck in the Middle by Stealer's Wheel in Reservoir Dogs: I always check that my ears should be in their rightful position when I hear that song.

  • Comment number 55.

    In recent years, the example i think reflects this the most,for me at least,would be Sam Raimi's "Drag me to hell" - Although there are lots Raimi's stylistic visual tropes and gags etc on show, it's the fantastic sound design that made this movie genuinely creepy in places, the one classic example is the scene with the main character played by Elizabeth Winstead, in her house who then hears the demon coming for her, it's the interplay between the small glimpses of the creature raimi shows us along with the creaking floorboards,whooshing wind and demonic growls that sends a chill down my spine everytime i see that scene, the sound mix of that film is near perfection.

  • Comment number 56.

    Apocalypse Now is a good example of how a film can have perfect synchronicity between its images and score.
    The End by The Doors swelling just as the napalm hits in the opening scenes creates an awesome dream like vision of hell. Doors hater Dr K probably would have put skiffle all over it.

  • Comment number 57.

    THE SHOUT!! Jerzy Skolimowski's overlooked masterpiece is a master class of sound and vision. It is also, apparently, one of the first films to make full use of the, then new, Dolby Stereo System. It must have come as a shock. It still does. And can anyone tell me of another film where the protagonist is an Electroacoustic composer? Great cast, great director, and a great script from a Robert Graves short story. Time for a re-evaluation I think.

  • Comment number 58.

    mmmmmm good question.
    the best recent example- Ramsay`s We Need to Talk About Kevin. The juxtaposition of the lyrics of the songs and the scene you hear it in, is just fabulous, a film with stunning emotional intelligence. I will never hear Wham in the same way again.

    for beauty of sound- Beineix`s Betty Blue, that wonderful unforgettable sax, and the beautiful cinematography were made for each other.

    but after some careful thought i think the most brilliant use of image and sound is Takashi`s Ju-On (The Grudge). This is one of the scarriest, most spine tingling, intense experiences I have ever enjoyed. I last watched it with my son. I`m glad to say were were both totally freaked out by the most effective use of sound and image I know. Now thats what you call Quality Time!!

  • Comment number 59.

    The Hot Spot (1990) by Dennis Hopper. One of my favourite films, the soundtrack is perfect, and the background sounds are excellent (such as the recurring sound of the train passing, the wind blowing or the weirdo christian couple reading the bible out aloud in the hotel).

  • Comment number 60.

    Aside from the already mention Bladerunner, I would go for Fincher's version of The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo. Reznor and Finch's superbly subtle electronic score perfectly frames and accentuates the on-screen action.

    Also noble mentions to the electronic scores that John Carpenter did for a number of his films.

  • Comment number 61.

    "Star Trek: The Motion Picture."

    No, it's not a great film. It definitely has its flaws, but the soundtrack is not among them. Jerry Goldsmith's score is nothing short of magnificent, and the use of the overwhelming, twanging "blaster beam" for V'ger demonstrates how a character--in this case an entity--can make its presence known through a simple sound effect alone.

  • Comment number 62.

    A most recent example I can think of it probably The Raid: Redemption. The visual choreography was only half of the film. Without the sound design, the body crunching, bone popping, fist force sound mix I don't think it would have achieved the same emotion it wanted to gain from the audience and lost some of the brutality.

  • Comment number 63.

    The Exorcist II: The Heretic

    Great, wierd score AND James Earl Jones making panther sound.

  • Comment number 64.

    I remember one night when I was younger watching The Shining with my earphones on ultra loud but quiet enough to not wake my brother.

    The sound is what creates the tension. I love the sound of the type writer and Nicholson throwing the ball around the really empty massive room. I love the sound of his sons bike as he rides around the empty Hotel. Finally I love the screeching sound when the lift opens and litres of blood comes crashing down towards the camera.

    Amazing truly amazing.

  • Comment number 65.

    The first film which comes to mind is A Clockwork Orange. The classical music gives a triumphant feel to Alex's violent acts, it also reminds us that Alex is an intelligent man, lending a cold calculated cruelty to his violence.

  • Comment number 66.

    Has no one said Psycho yet? Really?
    One of the most iconic moments in cinema. So iconic that almost everyone knows what we mean when we make the 'eerk eerk eerk' sound with a stabbing motion.

    The whole score keeps your heart racing, even during the first half of the movie when we're only worried about our leading lady getting caught, only for the suspense to take on a whole other degree of tension in the second and third act.

    Music in film is about reaching in and twisting our emotions. The sinews of our hearts. No film is this so brilliantly done as Psycho, and I'm saddened and dismayed that I haven't read someone post it before me.

  • Comment number 67.

    Dear good Doctor, again you have given us a worthy challenge, this time finding a film that manages to combine both visuals with sound. I find silent film to be a perfect example for that, such films as Paul Wegener's 'the Golem' or Charlie Chaplin's silent classics. Horror films can also be seen as a good example for this, especially those that have given us memorable themes. I am of course talking about films like Halloween, The Exorcist or The Omen, where merely playing the first five notes can send chills down one's spine. But with modern films most people would say it is one or the other that plays an overwhelmingly important role. I beg to differ. A perfect example for me is 'Ghost in the Shell' by Mamoru Oshii, a film which molds together sound, be it an atmospheric enigmatic score or mere melodic cues, and visuals, a canvas of animated characters and a bleak futuristic metropolis, into an intricately crafted structure. In fact, Mamoru Oshii's work in animation is highly visual and atmospheric. One of his earlier animations called 'Angel Egg' could also be considered a contender for combining visuals and sound. It takes play in a dark abstract and mythical landscape, and similar to Wall-E barely anyone speaks for large portions of the film. Subsequently characters' actions and the way they react or do not react become more important and powerful than what they are actually saying. To me what I hear in a film is as important as everything else, and can even decide whether a film is a stroke of genius or just appalling.

  • Comment number 68.

    Id bring up my favourite film - This is England. There are several key moments in the film where the dialogue is just tuned down and all that can be heard is the wonderful soundtrack. At first, as the main character Shaun is being let into the gang and is having the best time of his life, the film uses pieces of music from the time-period (1983) while showing a montage of events. (The opening montage showing footage from the '80s is well worth a youtube even if someone's not interested in seeing the film).

    The greatest moments for me are later in the film when things start to turn grim and the music that can be heard is 21st-century classical music from the composer Ludovico Einaudi. The more harrowing, racist moments are made all the more powerful by being juxtaposed with this delicate, beautiful music - one of the final, brutal scenes is a masterful mix of performance and sound and it really is incredible. The TV shows "This is England '86 and '88" are done superbly as well.

    But yeah... 2001: A Space Odyssey.

  • Comment number 69.

    Slightly off the mark perhaps, but still relevant - watching Flash Gordon in Derry in 1980 with a full house in The Strand Cinema singing "Flash aa aah...". Who needs 3D.

  • Comment number 70.

    Idioterne by Lars von Trier. It is really bad movie but our teacher from "Movie Sound 101" showed us this because of the use of sound. Plus it would be funny if Mark present a film club with this movie in it...

  • Comment number 71.

    Apocalypse now. I only need to hear the helicopter rota blades and the whole film plays out in my minds eye.

  • Comment number 72.

    Psycho. The shower scene owes almost all of its power to the sound.

    Similarly Jaws. The rubberised shark isn't exactly great, but John Williams score means the film is actually more effective because you hardly see the it at all.

  • Comment number 73.

    Mark, I'm surprised you did not mention Ken Russell. One of the greats who created images and sound perfectly meshed that all you needed to do was sit back and experience. From his earliest "documentaries" about composers and artist through his later feature film bio-pics (Tchaikovsky, Mahler, Liszt), he blended images and audio to create moments that both supported and defied the narrative. Even films like The Boyfriend and Savage Messiah were more emotionally effective due to the juxtaposition of the pictures and sound.

  • Comment number 74.

    For me it has to be Wong Kar-wai's Chungking Express, the sound scape to that film is just incredible, from the moody ambience background for the voice overs to the hustle and bustle of the streets of Hong Kong. Plus such an amazing pop soundtrack to boot, the whole thing just blends together in one of the most enjoyable experiences I have had time and time again. It takes all the best and the most fun things about the French New Wave and even improves upon it.

    Other choices that came to mind straight away were 2001 and The Devils, and it's wonderful to see some love for The Fountain on the comments here, nice to know I'm not alone on that one.

  • Comment number 75.

    Not sure if I've missed it but a film that combines music and pictures beautifully is the flying bike scene in ET. The score by John Williams is one of his best and when it's combined with the joyful scene of Elliot and ET on a bike flying across the moon it always brings a smile to my face

  • Comment number 76.

    The Fighter starring Christian Bale ... the opening street scene has the best sound I have ever heard in a cinema. There is no music .... just natural sound coming from the street with crystal clarity. It is awesome. On a separate note: Kermode and Zoe Ball together are excellent podcasters.

  • Comment number 77.

    The film that immediately sprang to my mind was Speilberg's first film, Duel where he uses mainly engine noises and desolate desert locations to create an incredible level of tension.

  • Comment number 78.

    Once Apon A Time In The West, an amazing operatic western.

  • Comment number 79.

    What else can I say but my favourite film of all time, Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange. The use of classical music in the film is one of the best usages of it in any film I've ever seen. The walk down the Flatlock Marina where Alex attacks his droogs to the sound of Rossini's The Thieving Magpie is perhaps the best piece of footage ever filmed, and the music makes all the more horrorshow, if you get my meaning.

  • Comment number 80.

    I'm glad that you've asked this question as the contribution of music and sound are definitely under appreciated in the effectiveness of a finished film.

    The Good, The Bad and The ugly would have to be included for its use of minimal dialogue, crisp sound fx and Morricone's perfectly complimentary score

    2001 is a must in this discussion as not only do the visuals and music blend perfectly, but the attention to detail on sound design is incredible, right down to accurately (and bravely) portraying space as having no sound at all.

    John William's Star Wars music IS half the film! while the sound fx are absolutely incredible. They are all organic (far better than lazy presets which are overused today), memorable and utterly unique.

    But my favourite use of sound would have to be The Evil Dead. The sounds are so over the top, disturbing and often very amusing! they contribute so much to this movie and help raise it above others in the genre.

  • Comment number 81.

    It has already been mentioned but Blow Out is the film that comes straight to my mind. A great movie with Travolta (probably one of his best performances) frantically trying match a series of photographs to a sound recording he has made to uncover a potential assassination. A very haunting film and a great insight into the world of sound in movies.

  • Comment number 82.

    I immediately thought of the film, Kamouraska, by Claude Jutra and with Genvieve Bujold. It was the first French language movie I saw without subtitles. Luckily for me, the film did not have a lot of dialogue. Instead, the intensity of the actors and the overwhelming Quebec landscape took over where language left off.

  • Comment number 83.

    Hey Mark,
    Long time watcher (listener), first time writing, bla, bla, bla...
    Anyway the obvious answer is Rififi with that amazing 30 minute silent heist scene, I was so engrossed through that proportion of the film I forgot the film was in French! It took me a while to adjust when they started speaking again.
    But one I'm not sure if anyone else will bring up is [500] Days of Summer, not the 'You Make My Dreams Come' scene (although that is great) but the amazing use of beautiful Regina Spektor song 'Hero' in the 'expectations / reality' scene.

  • Comment number 84.

    Repulsion. Much of the film is in ominous silence with a soundscape including distant piano, bells, overheard voices and the incessant ticking of Catherine Deneuve's clock. The fact that the dialogue and sound effects seem obviously dubbed adds to the nightmarish quality of the movie.

  • Comment number 85.

    Barton Fink.

    The vacuum of air under the doors.
    The sound of the wallpaper peeling from the walls.
    The distant sound of the ocean.
    The incessant mosquito.
    The sound coming from the next room.
    The long decay as the hotel bell rings out.
    The producers digestive system.

    The attention to detail in the soundtrack to this film is absolutely sublime.

  • Comment number 86.

    Death in Venice: at the end when Aschenbach is watching (and dying) and all we hear is Mahler - magnificent. In the same way A Clockwork Orange and watching the horrific violence to the sound of Beethoven. I would also include The Lives of Others where listening is the very essence of the film.

  • Comment number 87.

    The film Koyaanisqatsi has always been ingrained in my life. My father showed it to me as a child and the music and the images in that film have never left me. No characters, no dialogue, not even any text on the screen apart from the very end. Just a set of images and original music telling the story of man kinds rise and eventual fall. A truly amazing film that is entirely made by a relationship between sight and sound.

  • Comment number 88.

    Days of Heaven. I can think of few films made in the sound-era that so effectively communicate emotion and meaning not through dialouge or plot, but through the fusion of sound and image. It is perfectly attune to the rhythms of the natural world, with Malick often often foregrounding the tranquil sounds of nature such as crickets and the flow of water through a river, then overwhelming gthem with the loud noises of industrial machinery. Both Ennio Morricone's melancholic score and the immaculate magic-hour cinematography give the film a haunting, mythic quality.

  • Comment number 89.

    What about Punch-Drunk Love?

  • Comment number 90.

    "Suspiria", "A Clockwork Orange" & "Akira" for me work perfectly in terms of the tone and style of each films imagery, and lingering impact the combination of soundscape and visuals has on the subconscious. "Buffalo 66" and "Halloween" are the best examples of directors (Gallo and Carpenter) creating wonderful soundscapes for their own movies. "Brazil" for it's soundscape of bureaucracy, misery, elevator music and Christmas (all, in retrospect, somewhat thematically interchangeable). "Taxi Driver" for it's brooding raw emotion. And a couple of intro only picks, 1. The intro to Sam Peckinpah's "Cross of Iron" - a great short film collage of nazi footage and music; and, of course 2. the legendary intro from "Master of the Flying Guillotine" AKA "The One-Armed Boxer II".

  • Comment number 91.

    I would say that the work of Marc Caro/Jean Pierre Jeunet, such as Delicatessen.

    Also, 'Tuvalu' by Veit Helmer

  • Comment number 92.

    Having just watched "Once upon a Time in the West" with the sound cranked up as the neighbours are away this would be my perfect example. Nothing comes close but as reserve offerings how about The Third Man or The Ipcress File? Or a curve ball Top Hat or Singing in the Rain. Oh bugger just remembered Jaws and Star Wars

  • Comment number 93.

    The film that immediately springs to mind is Point Blank; the sound of Lee Marvin's footsteps that are at once a metronome and a countdown is hypnotic and rest of the film is as much a collage of sound as it is of image this turns the whole concoction into a dream.

  • Comment number 94.

    2001 is the obvious choice, but I would also like to mention Brokeback Mountain. The simple plucked guitar, along with the swooping note transitions rhythm which accompanied the very American vast landscapes, and also the most intimate moments is, not only perfect in evincing the sort of lost romantic life the cowboys try to emulate, but for me in a quite inexplicable way the sound of the Sublime.

  • Comment number 95.

    '2001: A Space Odyssey' combined use of sight and sound reinvented narrative conventions and cinematic scope. 'Tree of Life' is also interesting as a poetic ode to '2001...' and manages to recapture some of its awe. (Of course, fast forward during the dinosaur/birth-of-morality scene. It is absurd and makes the 'Tree of Life a film which is truly sublime verging on the ridiculous).

    'Jaws' uses sight and sound superbly to create an ominous atmosphere and terror. The John Williams score which accompanies the great white is legendary. Meanwhile, by showing as little of the mechanical shark as possible, Spielberg allows the viewers imagination to conjure up one of cinemas greatest villains. Additionally, the dolly zoom shot of Rob Schneider's character in the deck chair, accompanied by the strained chord of music, encapsulates his stomach-dropping terror as he witnesses a shark attack.

  • Comment number 96.

    There Will Be Blood instantly comes to mind. There are so much going on with the sound and the soundtrack in that movie, it's almost hard to think of anything in particular. The striking image of the burning oil well coupled with the chaotic music that blocks out any other sound, is something I will not forget in a very long time.

  • Comment number 97.

    The man with no name trilogy and once upon a time in the west I think are great examples of silent films where the film the language of the film is not spoken through its dialogue but its score and sound effects, even though they have dialogue its not the most important aspect of the film.

    A more recent film I feel that used this effect was Drive in that Ryan Gosling was basically speechless and again his character emotions was conveyed more through the soundtrack of the film than his speech.

  • Comment number 98.

    Well, the first example I could think of is 'Once Upon a Time in the West'. Typically with Leone's films (excepting most of 'A Fistful of Dynamite') it is largely dubbed, so the ENTIRE soundscape of that film is made from scratch. The most striking examples are the three gunman waiting for Harmonica at the train station with the water dripping on to Woody Strode's hat, Jack Elam and the fly and Al Muloch's knuckles. However, the real heart-stopper is the scene at Sweetwater when great danger is prefaced by a drop in the foley mix. Without giving too much away, the cacophony of cicadas and the like which you had gotten used to while Brett McBain and his family go about their little domestic drama is cut completely to invite a deafening silence! This happens not once but twice and only the interruption of a light wind and the tightening of a rope from a well can be heard. What happens next is heightened to the nth degree as Ennio Morricone's score sandblasts the scene to the greatest heights of drama ever seen in film and thus (all due respect to Tonino Delli Colli's cinematography) without that dextrousness of sound design, it wouldn't have been half the triumph that it is!

  • Comment number 99.

    2001: A Space Odyssey. What film more perfectly exemplifies it? I can't think of anything. The reason why is obvious from the first seconds - Thus Spoke Zarathustra plays and it's more iconic than any other song in movie history, apart from The Blue Danube, which also plays in 2001. Then, after such a bombastic intro, what do we get? Of course, we get 30 minutes of near silence with monkeys.

    Not to mention the silent space scenes that not only highlight the film's scientific accuracy, but also the cold isolation of space. Nothing is creepier than the concept of terror in SILENCE. And HAL9000's murder spree is almost completely silent, and that makes it all the more terrifying.

    Of course, there's no evidence of 2001 being the best more than the overture. 2001: A Space Odyssey is not just a film, it's an opera. And it's probably the best opera ever written.

  • Comment number 100.

    De Palma's Blow Out. Brilliantly perspectivises the audio-visual world, from the establishing of visual ideas that accompany Travolta's recorded sounds near the beginning to the very emotional separation of sound and vision at its panicked conclusion.


Page 1 of 3

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.