Throughout the film 2001: A Space Odyssey Stanley Kubrick uses mise en scène, referring to what is “placed in the scene”; and sound to realistically depict an accurate vision of the future with astonishing attention to detail.
Sound is one of the most important elements of a film; however it is often one of the most overlooked. Filmmakers can draw from different types of sounds to compose the final soundtrack the audiences hear while they’re watching the film including diegetic and non-diegetic. Diegetic sounds exist within a film’s story world and include any music that is being performed or heard by characters in the story, sound effects and dialogue. Non-diegetic sounds are complementary sounds such as background music or enhanced sound effects intended to intensify the moods, or using unrealistic sounds for dramatic or comic counterpoint to the image. Opposite is diegetic; it is heard by the viewers, however it does not exist in the story world inhabited by the characters.
The three categories of movie sound; dialogue, sound effects, and music all work together within the film but are treated separately during production. Dialogue is the spoken words by two or more characters or narration by a character in the story. Added layers of sound effects and music must not obscure important dialogue, an easier task when dialogue, music, and effects are all recorded separately. When edited properly, music is seamlessly combined with the rest of the sound so audiences are often unaware of when it starts and finishes.
With no dialog for the first twenty minutes of the film, 2001: A Space Odyssey relies heavily upon non-diegetic sounds such as background music or enhanced sound effects to intensify the mood of the film. The first part of the film, The Dawn of Man demonstrates first using solely sound effects and later only background music to enhance the mood.
The film opens four million years ago with a tribe of herbivorous early hominids serenely foraging for food in the African desert. One hominid is killed by a leopard, forcing the others to retreat and cower as a group in a cave for protection. After initial contact with the first monolith; in one of the most famous and iconic scenes of the film, one hominid has an epiphany on how to use a bone for a weapon. He picks up a bone from the skeletal remains of a wild boar and spontaneously begins smashing it. The scene cuts back and forth between the hominid merely smashing the skeletal remains of, and then killing a live wild boar. The climax of this realization culminates with the hominid throwing the bone high in the air. Background music is introduced early in the scene and soon becomes the dominant element, driving the inspirational mood of the scene to an almost divine level.
2001: Dawn of Man [Video file] Retrieved March 26, 2015 from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U2iiPpcwfCA
Before long, two competing groups of hominids meet at a common watering hole. One inspired group now has several hominids armed with bones as weapons, while the other group remains defenseless. After an aggressive exchange of chatter and display of force, one hominid eventually clubs a rival to death. The entire scene is void of dialog and music, relying upon the introduced sound effects of the battling groups. This sole dependency of sound effects contributes to the primitive, visceral mood of the scene.
2001: Greatest Fight Scene[Video file] Retrieved March 26, 2015 from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wstIBq2H0z8
2001: A Space Odyssey also relies upon diegetic sounds within a film’s story world. A prominent example of this is the scene of David and Frank sitting inside a pod aboard the Discovery One discussing Hal. Although they are surrounded by onboard computers and equipment, the only sound you hear is the conversation between David and Frank discussing the fact that Hal reads lips.
2001: Hal reads lips [Video file] Retrieved March 26, 2015 from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=1s-PiIbzbhw
Throughout the film 2001: A Space Odyssey Stanley Kubrick uses both diegetic and non-diegetic sounds sound to realistically depict an accurate vision of the future. Much of the music is set to classical waltzes by Aram Khachaturian, Johann Strauss and others. The use of music and movement is designed to give the impression of the machines waltzing. Examples are evident in scenes of the space station spinning to a classical waltz, which is the ultimate expression of the state of grace that humanity-built technology has now achieved.
2001: A Space Odyssey-Strauss [Video file] Retrieved March 26, 2015 from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UqOOZux5sPE
Another example of music used to set the mood of the film is Gregory Ligeti’s Requiem playing as background to the scientific team approaching the monolith on the moon. In this case Requiem evokes a religious tone suggestive of higher beings for the film.
2001: A Space Odyssey – The Monolith On The Moon [Video file] Retrieved March 26, 2015 from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oU4Rk0NATNs
Other scenes in the film use sound to convey the sense of being located deep within a large spacecraft. The drone of the engines gives the audience the feeling of being near the engine room deep within the hull of a large ship. This background noise adds to the illusion.
2001: Hal kills[Video file] Retrieved March 26, 2015 from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z4n3dbPqk58
Throughout the film 2001: A Space Odyssey Stanley Kubrick meticulously chooses sounds to produce very specific effects. In Italian musical terms, the qualities of music are chiefly characterized as colossal, in a fashion which suggests immensity. Additionally, the terms maestoso (majestic) and misterioso (mysterious) are relevant as well. Further, the soundtrack uses crescendo to build anticipation of something incredible unimaginable at the end of film. (List of Italian musical terms used in English, n.d.) Diminished the intensity of any one of the three categories of movie sound; dialogue, sound effects, and music would have greatly reduced the epic status of the film. The balanced, unified application of all three is what instills Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey a classic.
References for week 3
Goodykoontz, B., & Jacobs, C. P. (2014). Film: From watching to seeing (2nd ed.). San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.
List of Italian musical terms used in English. (n.d.) In Wikipedia. Retrieved April 4, 2015, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Italian_musical_terms_used_in_English