Martin Scorsese – The Art of Silence

Hi my name is Tony and this is Every
Frame a Painting. Let’s take a drive. Today’s subject is Martin Scorsese
and the art of silence. Even though Scorsese is famous for his
use of music, one of his best traits is actually his deliberate and
powerful use of silence. In interviews he’s credited Frank Warner
for helping him do this on Raging Bull. –After a while, we had so many sound
effects, we always talked about pulling them out of the track and
letting things go silent. Again, like a numbing effect as if you
were hit in the ear too many times. Here’s a famous moment where
Jake LaMotta sets himself up almost a religious slaughter. If you go through Scorsese’s filmography
there are lots of interesting variations on this concept. And you can actually
compare him directly to others. For instance, in the original
Infernal Affairs, this crucial story moment
plays with music. But for the remake Regardless of which one you prefer,
there’s a full course of study material if you watch and compare these two films Sometimes, Scorsese builds the
entire film to a climax of sound and then silence. This example is
actually kinda extreme because the loudest moment in the entire movie
is immediately followed by the quietest. Other times the silence is the central
dramatic beat of the scene. Famously: –How the fuck am I funny? What the fuck
is so funny about me? Tell me. Tell me what’s funny. –Get the fuck outta here, Tommy.
If you go back through fifty years of his career, you’ll actually find a lot
of fascinating ways of using silence to heighten the subjectivity of a moment
to make a creepy scene even creepier to show us love at first sight and to bring our happiness
to a screeching halt. Well, maybe not a total halt. –I’m not leaving –I’m not fucking leaving I think best of all, these sound design
choices derive from character. The characters are all making important
choices that will have consequences: choosing to take the money
choosing not to fight back, choosing to hide their emotions
choosing not to trust someone, choosing to wait out the discomfort choosing to get back in the game
choosing to ignore that they aren’t wanted. And because these moments are repeated
sparingly and deliberately in each movie the silence feels different
and it’s tied to a different theme. It also lets Scorsese build a cinematic
structure around the use of sound. For instance, in Raging Bull, almost
every fight scene is actually preceded by a quieter domestic moment. This lets him do certain things
like harsh cuts into punches. But it also underscores the theme of
the film, which is that the violence in the ring is just an extension
of the violence at home. By the time he’s attacking his brother,
you actually hear the same sounds that you heard in the ring. And it’s not just Scorsese who does
this kind of cinematic structure. For instance, Saving Private Ryan is
bookended by two long battles. And in each battle,
we get moment like this. At the beginning, we don’t know
any of these people. At the end, we know all of them. Now, you might disagree
with my interpretation here, but I’m convinced this character knows
he’s going to die, and in both moments, he’s accepting that and
continuing to fight. And I think it’s a great example using
sound as an overall cinematic structure for the whole film. I do want to point out, this stuff isn’t
just a matter of good sound mixing though there is that. The sound mixers
can’t do this stuff if you design the movie with wall-to-wall
dialogue, effects and music. –I don’t have anything
against a film being loud for a moment or two or a short period of
time. I think that’s appropriate but if you have a sequence that’s loud
for 20 or 30 minutes you’ve forgotten what it’s like
to be quiet and so nothing really seems loud because
everything is loud. In popular cinema, writers and directors
have moved away from having any silence at all, or misusing
the silence they do have. And this is something that gets
appreciably worse each year. Consider. 1978. You might find that a bit cheesy,
but at least this movie is willing to use silence to make us
feel the character’s loss. And it’s willing to stay with him
through that entire silence. Meanwhile, in 2013 This might seem silent but
there’s always music underneath. More importantly the “not-quite-silence”
is used to reward the character: he murders someone and gets a hug.
But if you watch the whole movie literally ever time there’s silence,
he gets a hug. So consider your silences
and deploy them deliberately. Don’t cheapen them by overusing
them for any dramatic scene. If you can build the film, structure it,
so that the silence derives from your characters and what
they’re feeling, then you get something better than just
silence: an emotional reaction –Which would be worse? To live as a monster or
to die as a good man? –Teddy? Subtitles by the community


Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *