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Functions of film sound: illusion & narration

by Sven E Carlsson

I categorize functions of film sound in ..[1]

A sound may have many functions at the same time.

The main function of synchronous film sound is - as I see it - to give life and body to flat moving images. 

Sound enhance the illusion of..


  • Sound is in 1-2-3-4 dimensions, moving images is in 1-2-4 dimension, Images gets "body" and space by synchresis

  • Something is made of plastic but it sounds stone
    A fake bottle becomes real with the addition of an actual glass bottle crash from the sound editors library.

  • Different shots made at various times bridged by sound and dialogue

  • Kerner's "creating illusion" is an illusion of "Off Screen Enviroment"-

A couple of years ago, when I was very inspired of Chion I made these terms to try to explain the narrative functions of film sound.


  • focus perception to on-screen or off screen sound. 

  • modifying the emotional quality of a sound

  • using sonic cinematic codes in the narrative as..
    • Conventional sonocode, some sound effects are almost clichés as "the bell of death", "the wind of loneliness" etc.
    • Temporary sonocode as "sound motive"
    • Director's sonocode as Hitchcock's silence for power

1. "Functions of film sound: illusion & narration" is variant of 
M Kerner's   effect = illusion + mood    To The Purpose of Sound Effects

to Film Sound Theory

First version of this page 18/3 1998

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