The Influence of Music on the Mood and Atmosphere of a Film

music and film
music and film
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Your anticipation for a particular film has been building since it was first announced last year. As the release date drew near, you prepared for the release. Finally, after enduring the lengthy previews on your screen, the lights dim, and the opening music begins to play. You can feel the excitement and anticipation as the music fills the room. Music is powerful, and filmmakers understand the impact that it can have on a film, which is why every movie utilizes it.

Music plays a crucial role in setting the mood and atmosphere of a film. It can heighten emotions, create tension, and even manipulate how we perceive a scene. A film’s score can make all the difference in how we experience a movie, and it’s not uncommon for a great film to be remembered just as much for its music as for its visuals and storytelling.

Evoke specific emotions

Music can be used to evoke specific emotions in the audience. A romantic film, for example, might use a soaring, romantic score to create a sense of love and longing, while an action film might use fast-paced, energetic music to get the heart racing and create a sense of excitement. The importance of this can be seen in the hit Netflix show Stranger Things as it features a nostalgically retro soundtrack that includes a mix of classic rock, new wave, and synth-pop music. This has helped it continue its dominance in the streaming charts as it had the most weeks at number one for the most watched shows and movies in 2022 based on ExpressVPN’s streaming infographic, with the latest season playing a huge part in that as it had tough competition from the last season of Ozark and Dahmer. Netflix continues to dominate this area as it had 18 pieces of content on the list compared to two for Prime Video and one for Disney+.

The music of Stranger Things has been praised for its ability to capture the feel and atmosphere of the 1980s and for its role in helping to set the mood and tone of the series. We see how the music was used to evoke a range of emotions in the viewer, including suspense, fear, and nostalgia. One example of how the music is used to evoke emotions in the latest season is through the use of leitmotifs. The leitmotifs for the Upside Down and the Demogorgon are ominous and are used to create a sense of foreboding and danger.

The music used in the show has also benefitted from being included as Metallica gained numerous fans after part two of the latest season was released and Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill became one of the songs of the summer 37 years after its release, which highlights the influence these shows have in popular culture.

Establish a sense of identity

Shows and films ranging from dramas and comedies to thrillers and documentaries have some elements of music within them because of its emotional impact on the perception of a movie. One of the most effective ways music can influence a film’s mood is through leitmotifs. A leitmotif is a musical theme that is associated with a particular character, place, or idea. It can help establish a sense of identity for a character and can also signify their presence or absence in a scene. For example, in the Star Wars franchise, the leitmotif for Darth Vader is an ominous, brooding theme that helps to establish him as a formidable and intimidating presence and made him one of the most iconic characters in film history, according to Britannica.

Watching Netflix on a Mac
Watching Netflix on a Mac

Manipulate the mood of the film

Another way music can influence the mood of a film is through the use of diegetic and non-diegetic music, as explained on MasterClass. Diegetic music is music that is audible to the characters within the film and comes from a source within the film’s world. Non-diegetic music, on the other hand, is music that is not audible to the characters and is used to manipulate the mood of the film for the audience. An example of non-diegetic music can be heard in the shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, where the use of suspenseful string music helps to build tension and create a sense of unease for the audience.

Eventually, music’s influence on a film’s mood and atmosphere must be balanced. It has the power to enhance the emotional impact of a film and can be just as memorable as visuals and storytelling. So next time you watch a film, pay attention to the music – it might just be the key to unlocking the full emotional impact of the movie.