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Effect of Sound on Meaning in Film

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Film Studies
Wordcount: 2184 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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Corrigan and White argue that ‘sound engages viewers perceptually, provides key spatial and story information, and affords an aesthetic experience of its own’. Discuss the role of sound in generating meaning in ONE film studied on the course.

Within film, sound is a key aspect to helping the narrative of a movie and to allow for extra elements to be expressed. This is because sound is a sensual experience and can make deeper impressions than the visual aspect of a movie[1]. Within film sound can be synchronised or non-synchronised and both diegetic (sound with a source on screen) and non-diegetic (sound which does not have a source on screen). Each element can help to add to the understanding of the story, creating deeper meaning. Seen in the 1933 movie ‘Singing in the Rain’, as sound is very important in the musical as it gives insight into the story and the characters personalities. Films incorporating sound is also most often used to establish the mood[2] and genre of the movie.

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Within the opening of the movie Don Lockwood has a voice-over where it is re-telling the accurate account of how he really became a success. This is important as voice-overs provide background to a story and enable the story to be move from different events[3]. As can be seen when the images on screen change to show the montage of the accurate events. They allow the audience to believe that they are being addressed, as they are hearing things that onscreen characters are unaware off. Within this opening scene there is also a use of montage sound that is blending all the sounds of the city and people at the theatre. As traffic can be heard and the crowd can also be heard. This gives us the indication that we are hearing what those onscreen are hearing as well.

Due to the film being a musical, it also showcases how sound interacts with images and creates a deeper meaning by giving insight to characters emotional state about certain events occurring. This can be seen when Don kisses Kathy goodnight and then begins to sing “Singin’ in the Rain”, to express his happiness, allowing us to understand what he is feeling. The soundtrack of this song is also very upbeat which giving us a more authentic understanding of how joyful he feels, as the music can allow you to feel similar emotions to the characters. Musical numbers within the films are a way to encourage the viewers to truly experience the movie and easily transition into the fictional world, as the plot can take a break and we can enjoy the performance.  This is because “one of the most basic uses of music is to help the viewer to become immersed in a film, to believe in it”[4].

Dialogue within this film is also significant, as the movie is based around film transferring from silent to those that incorporate sound. Through the film they are trying to have sound continuity through synchronising the voice of Kathy Selden to match Lena Lamont’s lips. Breaking the sounds continuity helps to adds to the reality of the story. The fact that most of the dialogue used within the film, (other than that mentioned) helps to add to the realism of the movie. This can also be seen using diegetic sound as an example would be when Cosmo plays the piano, it matches up to the sound we are hearing. Adding to the realism and authenticity of the film, the sound effects within the movie are incorporating features that can help add to a viewer’s experience. An example is: Don taking Kathy to sing a stage set and begins to set it up, all the sounds within this seen appear natural. Showing sound effects, such as the fan making noise is needed to give viewers an accurate representation what they are seeing, even if they are created by Foley artists. When Don is also opening the door to the set there is an impression of spatial depth, allowing us to be aware that they are within a huge empty room. Creating verisimilitude, making sounds appear as if they are from the real world.

In conclusion, ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ incorporates sound to help give a perception of reality and the upbeat music adds to the cheerful, wittiness of the plot. This also relates to what Andre Bazin’s said in ‘What is Cinema?’: “In their imaginations they saw the cinema as a total and complete representation of reality… perfect illusion of the outside world in sound, color, and relief.[5]” Sound within this film allowed for an illusion of reality, adding perceptually and to the plot, especially using musical numbers, as it gave insight to the characters, which is more than we usually get. 


  • Corrigan, T & White, P (2018) ‘The Film Experience’, Benford/St. Martin’s.
  • Bazin, A (2004) ‘What is Cinema: Volume 1’, University of California Press.

 Available at: https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/abdn/reader.action?docID=1513946&query=andre%20bazin

  • Ford, A (2010) ‘The Sound of Pictures’ (pp.22-24), Black Inc
  • In Point (2012) ‘Sound in Filmmaking’, Pacific Cinémathèque.

Available at:


With reference to Vertigo OR La Jetée, analyse the function that continuity and discontinuity have for the film diegesis.


Editing allows for a film to take shape, through the process of linking different images and shots together to help it make sense. One of the main features of editing would be continuity, this refers to when you aren’t aware of breaks between shots, where each shot has a continuous relationship to next[6]. This type of editing can be known as Invisible editing and this is because it has an effect of Verisimilitude (the appearance of being true). The Primary rule within continuity is the 180-degree rule; this refers to restricting the shots angle to 180 degrees on the axis of action, between characters in a scene[7]. However, there is also the editing style: Dis-continuity. This is when a shot does not follow the continuity rules, these types of shots usually hold meaning. The use of Continuity and Dis-Continuity can both be seen in the 1958 Hitchcock film: ‘Vertigo’. 

One of the first examples of continuity editing is seen within the opening sequence of ‘Vertigo’, where an Establishing shot is used. These are long shots used to establish settings and allow a viewer a clear view of what is being seen. This is important within the opening scene of Vertigo as it allows for the action taking place to be seen and the audience to be aware a chase is occurring on the roof of a building, which later will be important to the story and the character Scottie. Adding to the narrative of the story as through continuity editing it helps establish Scotties fear of heights (his vertigo). This being an important aspect of the film as it is the central theme.

A Match on Action shot is also used when Scottie is following Madeline in his car, the shot follows the movement of the car. Within these scenes there is cutting on action, which is when the movement on screen is quicken. This is seen using different shots of the car in different locations, which allow the audience to be aware that time is passing, without even having to think or become confused. It allows for the story to be able to move forward continually, without the scenes having to be lengthy.  This would still be considered continuity as one of the assumptions of this editing style is that the audience will follow the movement and thus accept the cut almost subliminally[8].  This is because actions that occur in different locations across cuts should led to the perception the events are all occurring concurrently in the fictional world[9].

There is, also other types of continuity shots used, such as the Point of View, where a character is shown looking at something and then the scene changes to match his optical point of view. Established within the pattern of a shot/reverse shot and uses eyeline match, to ensure its clear we are seeing this scene from the characters eyes. This shot can be demonstrated when Scottie can be seen following ‘Madeline’, as we first seen him hiding behind a door and then the shot changes to him looking at Madeline. This is used to make the audience feel as if the are within the scene as well. It allows for them to see and think everything Scottie is, to question what she is doing and where she is going. It builds up the anticipation engaging the audience with the characters and story. Over the shoulder shots are also used frequently, these are when the shot takes place slightly behind/over the shoulder of a character. Often used when two characters are speaking. An example of this shot used within this film is when Scottie and Madeline are speaking. These have the effect of the audience feeling as though they are within the scene listening to the conversation. Allowing viewers to connect with the scene and pay attention to the dialogue that’s being said. This will further help enhance the story for the audience so they can follow along easier. Gives insight into some of the things the characters are feeling and thoughts helping further move forward the narrative continually.

Dis-continuity within this film refers to when the editing can be seen and is no longer invisible like all other previous shots. It breaks the verisimilitude as to call attention to the editing to be able to affect the viewers in some way, they confront viewers with juxtapositions and linking of shots that seem unnatural/ unexpected[10].  An example of this would be when Scottie has decided to take on the assignment to follow Madeline and follows her to a bar. As within this scene a point of view shot is questionable. This is because the camera goes to a profile shot of Madeline and then back to Scottie, were we assume he saw her. However, the way Scottie is seen to be angled, he would not have been able to truly see her. Within this same seen the 180-degree angle is also broken. These show how Hitchcock wanted to experiment with he films continuity, as due to these it gives suspense to what is going to happen next, keeping the audience intrigued in the story and characters.

This shows that continuity editing is required to help build the narrative and characters arcs forward, so the audience can see the build up and are able to follow the story. Although within this film discontinuity can also be important as it is a way to add meaning to shots and to affect the viewers. As it gives them a sense of mystery about the characters and what will happen next.


  • Corrigan, T & White, P (2018) ‘The Film Experience’, Benford/St. Martin’s.
  • Crittenden, R (1996) ‘Film and Video Editing’, Routledge.

 Available at:


  • Magliano, J.P & Zacks, J.M (2011) ‘The Impact of Continuity Editing in narrative Film on Event Segmentation’

Available at:


[1] Corrigan, T & White, P (2018, pp. 210)

[2] Ford, A (2010, pp.24)

[3] In Point (2012)

[4] Ford, A (2010, pp.22)

[5] Bazin, A (2004, pp. 20)

[6] Corrigan, T & White, P (2018, pp. 180)

[7] Corrigan, T & White, P (2018, pp. 182)

[8] Crittenden, R (1996, pp. 29)

[9] Magliano, J.P & Zacks, J.M (2011)

[10] Corrigan, T & White, P (2018, pp. 202)


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