Power of score in film

The music in Nightcrawler brings out the tribulations of Gyllenhaal’s role.

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Contributed Image

A peculiar phenomenon occurs when you watch a scary movie. A secondary character is executing an arbitrary task — maybe he’s doing the laundry — but somehow you just know it: they’re going to die. You’ve come to this conclusion based on the raised hairs on your neck or perhaps the enlarging pit in your stomach and next thing you know they’re dead. Sure, you could credit this psychic event to scary movie stereotypes, but the true master at work — the root of your superpower — was simply the music.

A film score has the power to instill the deepest emotions, unparalleled suspense or even the utmost inspiration.

It’s a shame film scores are often overlooked and merely considered background noise by many filmgoers. The truth is, musical scores are at the root of the emotion filmmakers wish to translate from the screen to their audiences. The most heartbreaking scenes may make you feel upset, but it’s the hushed strings that will bring you to tears. Without a strong score supporting it, some of your favourite movie scenes would be passed off as insignificant, since dialogue and actions alone can’t always evoke emotion the way music can.

It is often the score that brings an exciting final act to epic proportions.Film scores serve to amplify your emotions, to move you.

An intriguing recent example is the movie Nightcrawler. Initially the score may feel out of place or even inappropriate, but its brilliance shines as we learn more about Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) and his personal demeanour. Traditionally, scores are composed to match the tone of the events occurring on screen, but composer James Newton Howards opts for a more ambitious route by matching his music to the emotions of an evident sociopath, Louis. As the camera pans over a decaying body, joyous strings and horns of celebration play — it’s disarming as an audience member and almost makes you feel like a sociopath yourself. I walked out of the theatre in awe, amazed at how effectively the music served to immerse the audience into the mind of Louis Bloom.

This film really opened my eyes to how much a score can truly impact a film.

Imagine some of the most treasured moments in cinema — Jaws, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars. Would they still be the celebrated films they are today had they been paired with an uninspired score devoid of passion? The answer to that question alone proves that the score is among the most essential facets to successful filmmaking.


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