Tag Archive : music in film


Amedeus was an epic film, as it was epically long and painful. While I’m sure that there was many historically significant events, I am not a history buff and don’t know what it based on truth or not. I’m sure some music majors and historians would like to view the film, perhaps just once in their lives, however the potential audience for really enjoying the content of this film must be extremely narrow. I do find classical music very enjoyable, and the time period is interesting, however the making of a 3 hour movie for his life is a bit of a stretch.

One element that I found very interesting was the way that the story was presented. The use of Antonio Salieri’s retelling of his life was a great way to present the storyline. This allowed us to view his emotion, in the way he told the story on screen, as well as the perspective of the other actors playing out the scenes. This dual perspective gave added voice to the presentation, and gave us a type of stereo vision, allowing us to understand it much better. The switching from Salieri’s first hand dialog, to the long scenes of the events allowed for better attention span, as well as broke up the story into logical pieces, making it a bit easier to comprehend what was going on though the story.

The basic storyline of the film is the telling of the lifespan of Mozart through Salieri’s point of view. We start with Antonio, in a mental hospital of some kind, telling of Mozart’s early childhood. We learn of his music skills as a prodigy, as his father drags him all over showing off his talent. As he matures, he ends up working for many folks, composing music and full operas. His relationship with his father sours, and eventually becomes a problem for his wife as well. His appetite for women, poor financial planning and spending, and not following social norms causes friction between his employers and wife for most of his life. His father passes away, which is clearly a tough time for Mozart. Salieri secretly hires Mozart to write his (Mozart’s) own funeral march, and plans to knock off Mozart at some point.

As I watched this film, I’m unsure why Mozart’s laugh, which was peppered throughout the entire dialogue, was so obnoxious and painful. His emotional and witty laugh was unusual at first, and even playful in parts of the show, however after 3 hours of hearing the laugh, it was clear that he was insane. It was unclear what point this was making, if Mozart really did have this crazy laugh, and it was trying to be historically accurate, or if this was a tool to show Mozarts playfulness, immaturity, unpredictability or instability. This film was dialogue driven and as it was broken up with scenes from opera’s you could still feel the animosity between Salieri and Mozart even when they weren’t communicating directly. I did find the music enjoyable and really had no idea how many pieces Mozart had composed that I have heard before.

At the end of the film you see the priest who is supposed to be there to absolve Salieri of his sins is overcome with the story he has just heard. Salieri points out that it was in fact God who took Mozart away and let him continue living for 32 years full of mediocrity. Salieri claims he is the Saint of Mediocrity and can absolve all the mediocre souls out there. His obsession with Mozart has ended up taking away what joy he could have had in life. This was a unique film that I will probably never watch again.

The Conversation

The Conversation is a film made in 1974 about surveillance technology and the moral dilemmas one faces when using this technology. Honestly the movie moved too slow for me as I had a hard time staying awake in it. I find it interesting that it is categorized as a thriller because of its slow pace. I guess I am more into the fast paced, action thrillers when it comes to this particular type of movie. It did however give me a better understanding about sound design in a film.

This film starts with a scene in the middle of a city courtyard that has a variety of activities going on and it is lunch time. There is an overwhelming amount of ambient sound, there is also music and other sound effects. Harry is trying to record a conversation of this couple who are constantly walking around in circles because they think this will help them not be able to be recorded. This was more accurate in the time this film was made. They had one guy wired and casually following them around. One on the roof of a building with a microphone attached to a scope to follow them and another in a building. You could hear a lot of disjointed sounds that were supposed to be interference and feedback along with just the other sounds of chaos in the background. When he starts to go through the recordings in his lab, he is able to adjust the interference and take out the background noises in order to get a clearer recording of just the conversation between this couple.

Harry is just an ordinary man who records and does surveillance work to make a living. He doesn’t care what the people say or who he works for as long as he gets paid. His friends and colleagues question his ethics and moral character when they start discussing what has happened to some of the people he has done surveillance on. This gets him started to think that maybe he has played a role in some of these people’s death. He decides to destroy his current tapes because he doesn’t want any connection to this couple being harmed. He dreams about telling the woman that she is not safe and about some of his struggles growing up. The tapes are stolen and given to the director who ordered the surveillance and he realizes that the woman he has recorded is the wife of the director. You can see the turmoil in his actions and facial expressions of what harm may come to her.

As Harry decides he has listened to this recording so many times he knows that this Sunday there is something big going down. He wants to do the right thing, but ends up in a room next to the one in question. He tries to listen to what is going on and when it is clear that someone is being harmed in the next room, he has a mental breakdown. He knows it is partly his fault. He turns the TV on, closes the curtains and crawls into bed pulling the covers and pillows up over his head. He doesn’t call the police or leave. The music gets all distorted in this part with the high pitched psycho killer sounds. Then back to a static sounding TV with the Flintstones on it. The couple he records are the actual killers and they know that he knows. He is given a warning at the end to stay out of it, along with a recording of him in his apartment. This throws him into a spiral of tearing his whole apartment apart trying to find out how they are surveilling him. I spent a lot of time listening to the sounds in this film, trying to pick apart what sound went to what type of sounds there are in films. I think this film gives good examples of sound design, even if it was a slow movie for me.


I haven’t watched Jaws since I was a kid and it was showing on television. I must say that when this film came out, the special effects were awesome for the time and technology. I was and still am to a certain extent terrified to swim or be in the ocean due to the fear instilled in me as a child of man eating sharks in the water. The scenes when you see Jaws, the great white shark, come out of the water with mouth open wide ready to devour everything in his path were very real to me as a kid. Watching it now, I can see that it is not real and was a mechanical shark. You could not have convinced me of that as a kid, but as you can compare it to what can be done with graphics and editing I do see a difference now. The cinematography for this movie was done in a way to help the story flow and most times now when I watch any film, it there are any underwater shots of people swimming or playing in the water I find myself wondering when the shark attack will be. That is part of the setting up of the shots in this movie showing us as the viewer where the action will be coming from, down below the surface of the ocean. The director does a good job at showing you a conversation of the little boy pleading with his mother for just 10 more minutes of play in the water. Then he goes and grabs the yellow floatation device and heads out to the water. Everyone else is just playing and splashing around, so the focus is on this one child floating and splashing. Add to that the iconic music of the two off sounding notes that always lead to the shark attacking and you find yourself on the edge of your seat thinking, get out of the water all of you crazy people. How do they not know the shark attack is about to happen.

When movies can play on our own real life fears it makes them seem more real and you become sucked into the suspension of disbelief. Even though logically, I can tell myself that this shark can’t break up a boat that size, my fear of sharks in general helps to fuel this film into more of a reality than it is. The music is well known and you would have to have lived under a rock to not know that da dum, da dum, da dum sound means you are going to be shark food. The fact that this shark keeps coming back after being harpooned, shot, stabbed and many other things is now when I see it jumping out of reality for me. It just doesn’t seem to fit with the nature I think they have. I think once it eats someone, it’s not going to turn right around looking for another person, but that is just my opinion. I did enjoy the finale as Jaws comes charging towards the boat with the tank in his mouth, knowing full well that this is going to end explosively. My favorite line being “Smile, you son of a bitch” as the police chief fires his gun and the shark explodes magnificently. Now the threat has been neutralized and the waters are safe once again. Of course you really can’t convince my mind of that, therefore, to this day I still will only dip my toes in the ocean water.

Singin’ In The Rain

I have watched many musicals, but Singin’ In The Rain is one of my favorites. After watching it again I find myself humming or singing along to the music even hours later. The tunes are catchy and stick with you. One of the reasons I enjoy musical films so much is that they are usually a romantic story with plenty of song and dance. I don’t have to concentrate so much on what might happen next. It has been a while since I watched this film, so it was fun to remember the story line behind all of the singing and dancing. This film came out in 1952, but portrays the late 1920’s, when film was beginning to change. The change from silent films with words posted on screen intermittently giving you a brief sense of what is going on to the talking movies or “talkies”. To actually have words instead of music playing was a big deal.

I think this movie does a good job at portraying what I think would have been some of the big obstacles to overcome in transitioning from silent to talking movies. They actually had to have a better story and script to read to keep the audience entertained. You couldn’t just repeat the line “I love you, I love you, I love you.” over and over again because no one talks like that in real life and so talking in a movie became more about the whole story and not just a scene acted out with a brief explanation of what was really going on. I’m sure they really did have actors and actresses that did a good job acting, but had annoying voices that were like nails scraping down a blackboard. We have all had the experience of talking to someone over the phone and then meeting them in person and what we pictured in our heads is not what they look like in person. I can only imagine the headache I’m sure it was to start using such big audio microphones that unless you spoke directly into it the sound was not picked up. Then there is the task of making sure that the audio and video played together and were synchronized. When the lips don’t match the sound it make for comic disaster.

I like how Kathy meets Don in the film and could care less about him being a famous movie star and telling him if you’ve seen one of his films, you’ve seen them all. This showed how well we know the fact that the same movies keep getting produced with a different scene, time and small twist to the plot. I have always liked watching musicals, they would make me sit back and think “wouldn’t it be amazing to be able to sing and dance on a stage.” Too bad that I hate to get up and perform in any way in front of a crowd. But I can always sit back and watch a musical and have the same nostalgic feelings of “I wish I could…” I like how the story can flow back and forth with the music, dancing and narration of the story. The story/plot never seems to be too twisted or deep with a musical. I like the feel of a simple romance with a few obstacles, but happily ever after in the end. These types of movies remind me of my childhood because they are a few of the ones I was allowed to watch that didn’t have too much “mature adult content”. Now that I am done reminiscing about Singin’ in the Rain, I am still humming the tunes to myself. 🙂

The African Queen

The African Queen is set in the German occupied part of Africa in 1914. Mr. Allnut is a steamboat driver who delivers the mail and news to the British missionaries there in Africa. This movie starts with the missionaries trying to get the native people to sing hymns. It turns into a cacophony of noises, the missionary singing trying to be louder than the droning monotone syllable of the natives. Mr. Allnut comes into the village and causes a disturbance to end the church session. He is invited to stay for tea where he has an embarrassing scene of his stomach growling and making Rose and her brother uncomfortable. As an afterthought Mr. Allnut lets them know as he is leaving that he won’t be bringing any mail for a while as they are at war with Germany back home.

The ominous sound of drums can be heard in the background announcing the arrival of the German soldiers rounding up the natives to go to war for them and burning their huts so they have no where to return to. This sends Rose’s brother off the deep end and he goes crazy with fever and dies making this the catalyst to push Rose into action. Mr. Allnut comes back to see the village in ashes and Rose sitting devastated on the porch. The bleak scene portrays that there is nothing left to stick around for prompting Mr. Allnut to offer to take Rose with him and hide off of an island until the whole war blows over. The music leading up to getting on the African Queen is foreboding and I thought for sure they would be caught right there. It quickly changes to a jaunty little tune fitting for a peaceful trip down the river.

Rose comes up with a plan of action, she is not content with waiting out the war, she wants to do something to stop the Germans because she blames them for her brother’s death. The idea to go down the river that only one other person has ever survived shows how desperate she is. The use of close up shots in the film really lets you see not only the obvious reactions to each other, but you can see how much more of a story can be told just by reading the body language in each of the actors. Between the close up shots and the music played you can see the distaste that Rose has for anyone who chooses to lose himself to drinking.

The framing of the steamboat in the shots going down the river rapids is large to help make the effects seem bigger. There are some wide shots where it looks like a toy boat being tossed down the rapids put together with some close up shots to show the actors reactions to being thrown down the river. Compared to the quality of editing today, it was very clear at points what was added to the film. You can see the outline of the actors is clearly in front of a picture behind them and when they encounter the swarm of mosquitoes it looks as if there are just floating particles edited over them with the sound of bugs. Even my boys laughed at that. There was the charming B story in the film of falling in love, even though they were complete opposites.

To me the ending was wrapped up a little too neatly. They are captured, about to be hung and then they crash into the sunken African Queen to still blow up the Louisa. That was too much of a Hollywood ending where everything turns out just right in the end. Maybe that was how people liked watching their films in the 1950’s. I usually enjoy them more when there is a dash of reality to the film. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a happily ever after once in a while too.