Combining Audio and Visuals to Enhance Emotional Experience in Film

Film is one of the few mediums of art that appeal to several senses at once. You can’t hear a painting or see a song, but film manages to pull the positive elements of each form of media to combine audio and visuals into a single emotional experience. Whether it be a narrative cue made specifically for the film or a pre-recorded song, sounds or songs can be used to enhance the focal point of a scene. For example, the opening scene from Kingsman: The Secret Service (Matthew Vaughn, 2014) has a helicopter flying in from overhead and launching rockets into an enemy base.

The scene is meant to elicit adrenaline, setting the viewer up for an exciting film. Instead of relying solely on visuals, this film uses the climax of the guitar solo from Money for Nothing  in conjunction with the visual climax to create an intense emotional experience that could not be felt from either mode of media taken individually.

Another example of music and visuals working in conjunction to enhance emotional connection to the film is in Taking Woodstock (Ang Lee, 2009), where the main character takes LSD in a van with some new acquaintances.

His slip into an altered state can be felt by the viewer as the scene begins to brighten with swirling colors. An even stronger connection can be felt when the almost stereotypical psychedelic rock song begins playing, putting the viewer in a state where everything both looks and feels like a dream.

This connection between song and visuals within film is not exclusive to any genre, nor is it even exclusive to any style of music. Certain songs can enhance horror movies by creating discomfort, or on the opposite spectrum create nostalgic happiness in romance movies.

What iconic scenes have been enhanced by music? Are there any scenes that are made great just because of the song that comes with it?

2 comments
  1. Funny you mention that particular Jurassic Park scene… I recommend checking out this video to see how important the music really is in setting the mood. Change the tone of the soundtrack a little bit and well…
    https://youtu.be/-w-58hQ9dLk

  2. Lots of different movie franchises have these iconic soundtracks that go along with them. What’s Harry Potter without that opening melody? Or Star Wars without the binary sunset? Or Jurassic Park? Or Jaws? Personally, I knew the Jaws shark song before I watched the movie a few years ago.

    I’m not sure if the scene in Jurassic Park when they first see the dinosaurs would be so iconic if it wasn’t for the music. It seems to mirror the character’s (and by extension, our own) childlike wonder at seeing live dinosaurs. There is no dialogue (or minimal dialogue) during that Jurassic Park scene. All we hear is the music.

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