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Non-literal sounds in Film

Hi, I'm doing a video project to present examples of various non- literal sounds in films. I'm looking for movies with sound effects which are pretty much different from the sound the viewer would expect to here.. not throughout the entire movie but perhaps for one or two important scenes. The only extremely vague example I can think of is Raging Bull during a boxing scene. I'm looking for at least 6 movies. I hope someone can help me out!

Charles Deenen:
Amilie is something that would fit your description. Also, a lot of movie trailers fit your description.

Randy Thom:
In Apocalypse Now, when a wooden bridge is blown up during the well-known helicopters-attacking-the-village sequence, one of the main sounds you hear is bowling pins being knocked over.

In The Right Stuff, when the X-1 accelerates, one of the main sounds you hear is a piece of chalk being scraped across a "blackboard."

In Mars Attacks the sounds of space ships flying-by were mostly created by bowing pieces of metal.

In Cast Away the sounds of palm trees creaking in the wind were mostly footsteps on creaky wooden stairs, and twisting a wicker cat carrier.

Tom Hays:
My all-time fave: during the tense scene towards the end of Full Metal Jacket, in which the fish-out-of-water protagonist is trying to find the sniper, in a bombed-out building in Hue, Vietnam, smoothly blended in the mix we hear a telephone ringing. I've always wondered if this was in the music track, if a sound editor smoked some weed and tossed it in there, or if it was Kubrick's idea.

top fuel dragsters blended into the lion roars of "The Ghost & The Darkness" 12-Cylinder Porsche 917 racing car used for Robin's Motorcycle in "Batman & Robin"

Dave Ellinwood:
Jurassic Park 2 "dinosaur growls" used for the ocean waves and the subway train

David Farmer:
Fellowship of the Ring: Balrog Vocals - Cinderblock dragged across a wooden floor.

Raindrops on Gatekeepers lantern: Fingernails tapping an empty root beer can.

The Island of Dr. Moreau: Flare gun flare shot/flying - Car by on wet pavement.

Anthony Airon Oetzmann:
Note movies, but from the series I work on(GZSZ/Germany): Simple knock on a wooden door / impact of of boat(small) against boat(large) both wooden Skateboard rolling in a halfpipe / scraping of said boats against each other CD jewel case open and close + metal tool scrape against knife / hand gun cock

Charles Maynes:
Regarding non-literal sounds in films… I think that we should differentiate this a bit further- It is one thing to use a vaguely appropriate sound in a sync event - (the aforementioned boat impacts for door knocks, or almost any "Hollywood" gunshot) But I think the more interesting usage is of the sort Walter Murch has done- Like the El Train in "The Godfather" before Michael shoots the cop. The usage of a non-literal sound to convey an emotional punctuation. These are insightful for everyone-

I think Treg Brown once said that he NEVER used an appropriate sound if he could manage it, and the older WB Cartoons truly were legend for that sensibility

Hi, thanks to everyone who answered my question! I'm in agreement with Charles Maynes..

What I first meant with "non- literal" sounds was sounds that are drastically different, almost contrapuntal, to what the audience would expect to hear.. sort of like an artistic effect. (I'm not saying that Foley people aren't artistic. They are extremely creative.) I know that a movie like Amélie has a few examples such as these. I hope I can find that at the video store though.

I've written down Godfather and Full Metal Jacket. I know that the WB cartoons are good examples, but I'm trying to exclude animations since the audience wouldn't expect to hear a "literal" sounds with WB cartoons. I also remember one scene in "Shine" when the guy is playing the piano but we can't hear the sounds of the piano. I suppose the lack of sound could be considered a "non-literal" effect as well. I'm going to think up some more examples. Thanks everyone!

Tom Hays:
Um... I saw the last 10 minutes of Full Metal Jacket on cable last night, and the phone wasn't there. I don't know if it had to do with my listening arrangement, a remix, or if there simply was a '70s-vintage phone ringing in the next house the last time I saw it... a strange form of tinnitus?

In any case, I guess I was wrong. Unless any of the '70s film sound experts out there know about remix history on that film.

In any case, I _thought_ it was a great character POV sound - it really (would have) added to the sense of anxiety, and specifically the feeling of an external force insisting to the character that there was something to do.

Charles Deenen:
If you're indeed after non-exact sounds (like in amelie), try "the cell", which has some oddball sounds in the dream sequences etc. Other ones are "Seven" and "Behind Enemy lines" (in 2-3 spots)

Randy Thom:
Frank Warner is still very much around, so we could ask him, but my guess is that he did not intend for the audience to recognize and be aware of the "non literal" sounds in the Raging Bull fight scenes.

I'm sure that if you did a poll of non-sound people who had just watched the movie, very few of them would be able to tell you that they heard horse vocalizations during the fights.

I would be amazed and surprised if Frank's intention was to subvert the expectations of the audience. He was just trying to make it as powerful and emotional a scene as possible, and that's what he did.

Call me a stodgy old geezer, but this recent trend toward tracks that seem to be saying "listen to me and hear how cute and clever I am" is not necessarily a good thing for the movies or for sound work itself.

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March 2002 "Non-literal sounds in Film!" at discussion list sound_design · an open forum about Sound design tips, techniques, theories and solutions for both Film and Interactive Media

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