Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Crash Sounds

I had a fascination with Crash. My habits were different then; I must've seen it 20 or 30 times in the space of a couple of years. Given the opportunity to re-watch any Cronenberg film, I would still probably pick that one. I had the opportunity to do so -- a friend wanted to watch it, and it'd been at least five years since I'd seen the movie. What fascinates me still, above all the other elements of the film -- the pharmaceutical composition of its images, its clinical editing, Howard Shore's music -- is the sound mix, which is very unusual.

[You might have to click this link link to hear the entire 2 1/2 minute scene]

Crash is a difficult film to watch quietly, because the dialogue is mixed in a muffled way, sometimes at the same volume as the sound effects, sometimes quieter. In the images, we're naturally drawn to human figures; we are people, and we like, above all, to watch other people do things. It's difficult to equate a machine and a person in a moving picture. You can do it through editing, but within a single shot, it's almost impossible. It's the sound, and the dispassionate way all of the actors talk, as though making notes into a tape recorder for themselves, like medical examiners in a thriller or David Petersen in Manhunter, that does it. Every sentence seems to have been recorded separately. It sounds less like we're "listening in" on conversation than that a particular sort of noise made by people is being played for us, like a Chris Watson recording of some forest. And as, when recording animals, one inevitably catches the sound of rustling leaves and rain (it is, after all, the animals and the trees together that form a "forest"), it's inevitable that when creating a recording of "society," one should have both human voices and city sounds at equal levels.


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