Thursday, November 17, 2011

The 39 Steps - Use of Sound


     Hitchcock's fim, The 39 Steps, is about a man, Richard Hanney, who accidentally gets himself involved in a mystery.  Falling into the role of new spy,  he continues the journey of the now-deceased previous spy. Problems arise for him when it becomes assumed that Richard is the murderer of a poor woman (who was actually the spy killed by agents.)  Through this adventure he meets a woman who he later falls in love with, and in the end he discovers the secret.  An important aspect to this film is it's use of sound to accentuate the emotions and tones of key moments.

     At the beginning of the film during the first scene there is music being played by a live band.  The music is slightly energetic and bouncy.  This helps to set up the ambiance of the performance.  Later on in that very same scene, only moments before the gunshot is fired, there is this gradual sense of disorganization and chaos.  This is produced by the sounds of the audience bickering and getting worked up.

     In many scenes of great tension or suspense, there will be a lack of sound (aside from dialogue.) For instance, in the scene where the spy woman comes to Mr. Hanney's house, there is no audio, aside from her words.  She speaks in a sort of secretive way of agents being outside of the house.  The lack of dialogue makes what she is saying sound both important and scary.

     Another example of lack of audio being used to create tension: when Mr. Hanney stays at the home of a man and his wife, the man becomes suspicious of his wife and Mr. Hanney secretly loving one another behind his back.  During the scene in which he decides to leave the room and spy on them from the outside of the house, there is no audio what so ever.

     As shown, this movie intertwines audio (and lack there-of) to create a certain tone/atmosphere, whether that be one of tension, chaos, or maybe even giddiness.