Every film has a central idea that drives the story. This dramatic core may be reinforced by the film's sound. It is useful to find a powerful sound idea to support that dramatic core from the perspective of the sound.
The sounds of nature deployed by Jean-Jacques Annaud in The Bear were mentioned earlier. Clint Eastwood used jazz improvisation in Bird (1988), the story of Charlie Parker. Performance pieces punctuate the film, but beyond that, the improvisation dictates the dramatic structure and the interplay of shots within scenes. Parker was a genius and an addict; improvisation was at the core of his musical and personal lives. Improvisation is both the core idea and the basic sound motif of the film.
The core dramatic idea of Sam Peckinpah's The Getaway is that any mode of life is preferable to a life in prison. Sam Peckinpah used the noise of a cotton-weaving machine in the opening 5 minutes of The Getaway (1972). The story of Doc McCoy (Steve McQueen), a Texas bank robber, opens in prison, where McCoy cannot qualify for parole without the intercession of a crime boss who wants McCoy to work for him. The sound of the machine carries over from the factory floor to the exercise yard to the parole hearing to McCoy's cell. With its loudness and regimentation, the machine represents death to this character.
Peckinpah used this repetitious sound effect to make a point about McCoy's loss of freedom in jail. He cannot get away from the sounds of the prison factory no matter how hard he tries. The sound's constancy is a reminder of his loss of freedom. Peckinpah intercut scenes of the parole hearing with shots of McCoy in various prison locations and images of McCoy and his wife making love. All the while, the sound is constant, uninterrupted by fantasy or reality. The value of freedom is the core dramatic idea of The Getaway. McCoy will do anything to get free and to maintain his freedom. This core concept is highlighted by the sound of the cotton-weaving machine.
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