The sound mix of a movie or podcast can be so important to its success even though it may not be the most obvious. Since really starting to pay close attention to sound, I find that the really good mixes are seamless. You actually don’t really notice the shifts from music to audio to effects until you think about it because it feels natural.
One movie that I’ve recently seen that I think does sound brilliantly is the Danish film, ‘The Guilty’.
In the film you are only ever shown the main character in his workplace (primarily his cubicle). There is no other scenery, and not really any other characters seen throughout, so sound is vitally important to keep the attention of the audience and drive the narrative. It really pushes the imagination of the audience to fill in where they can’t see, through the use of sound.
I was so impressed by the sound mix as it created a sense of tension and suspense without being too much. In the clip above you can hear one of the phone calls and it gives a sense of place to the person on the other end of the phone without ever seeing where they actually are. You can tell it is raining and that they are in a car through the sounds of rain and windshield wipers but it doesn’t overtake the conversation. In fact it adds depth painting a picture with sound. You can easily picture where she is without actually seeing it and it is the same throughout the entire movie in every conversation. You can see where these characters are through the sounds around them.
The movie is all about various phone calls and they were likely recorded in different locations. Even though there may have been effects added to the people on the other end of the call, the levels are consistent throughout so it is not jarring to the viewer/listener and allows them to really focus on what is being said.
Great sound in a movie like this, where it drives the narrative, it is also really important to embrace silence. In a moment where you want to create suspense and tension but also allow for space within the mix, silence is essential. It is beautifully done adding that anticipation for the phone to ring and if it were not there you wouldn’t get the same feeling that the main character is feeling. Silence in this film allows that space for you to connect to the character in a way that couldn’t be don’t if there was constant sound.
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