Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Full From The Sounds of The Hunger Games

Think about the type of music you would play as you say your final farewell to your family, potentially for good.  Or how about when you step foot in an arena of 23 other kids, one in which you know only one will remain standing. Or better yet, how about when you hold a young girl in your arms as she takes her last breath.  This is what the film score composers of The Hunger Games faced. The Hunger Games is a film about Katniss Everdeen, a young girl who voluntarily replaces her sister as the representative for her district in the Hunger Games: a last-man-standing brawl against representatives from the other eleven districts. The soundtrack in this film captures an array of emotions from sorrow and suspense to joyfulness and victory.

Film score composer, James Newton Howard, used a touching lullaby “The Meadow Song” to draw in viewers to the sorrow and pain that Katniss felt as she comforted her sister Primrose from a nightmare of the reaping day and as she stroked through the hair of young Rue as she searched for her remaining breaths.  “The quiet sound strikes us as delicate, hesitant, and weak” (Giannetti, Sound Effects). Katniss sings to Primrose in a soft, gentle voice to provide relief to her vision of being chosen as the District 12 representative.  In this scene, there are no other sounds than the voices of the characters; this draws the attention of viewers to the fear that both characters are feeling as the reaping day draws closer. Later in the film, this same lullaby is sung to Rue; however, similar in sound, the song is accompanied by a different series of emotions. Music is often used to express the internal emotions for characters, and for Rue, this song does exactly that (Giannetti, Music).  Katniss clearly expresses here despair as she sings the song, but Rue conveys her fearful emotions through both the lullaby and her eyes.  Unlike previously sung in the film, the chorus is accompanied by soft, slow background music that builds the grief during the scene. 

Loud sounds create a forceful, intense scene, while a faster tempo increases the suspense (Giannetti, Sound Effects).  When Katniss and Peeta enter the opening ceremony of the games in their flaming clothing atop a chariot the music is powerful and builds suspense as the District 12 representatives link hands.  The music then becomes louder and the beating of drums takes affect, which creates an intense scene for viewers.  The music is complemented by loud clapping and cheers from the crowd of people.  The music in this scene reminded me of the opening ceremonies of the Olympics: each country is represented, the crowd is excited, but the athletes are conflicted with nerves and excitement.

During the game, the music is intense, fearful, and creates uneasiness for viewers. In many of the scenes the soundtrack is used to underline the dialogue (Giannetti, Music).  Because Katniss is often on her own, music is used to avoid creating silence in the film.  It makes the viewer fear for her, building the suspense, as you never know when another character might pop out to take her life. The soundtrack “Booby Trap” does a great job creating a thrilling, fervent scene as Katniss travels through the unknown woods.  The pounding sounds make the viewer fear what might be waiting for her around the corner or behind the next tree. Like in many drama adventures, the music played throughout the film is without vocals, and accelerates as the scene becomes more suspenseful. For instance, when she is looking for Peeta after finding out that there can be two winners, the song is loud and the drum and violin are clearly heard.  However, when she finds Peeta, the music slows down and becomes calmer.

The music in this movie creates a suspenseful, violent, and nervous mood; it left you on the edge of your seat, fearful of what might happen in the next scene. As I watched the movie, I began to feel uneasy and frantic, as I feared for Katniss’ life. The composer for this film, James Newton Howard, added credibility to the soundtrack.  Because of the 144 other films that he composed for, some of which include The Dark Night, I Am Legend, and The Bourne Legacy, he can be trusted to create a soundtrack that is suitable to the scenes and attractive to the viewers. Along with developing ethos for the film, he created a soundtrack that strongly appealed to the emotions of the viewers. When Katniss felt worried, I felt worried. When Katniss feared for her life, I feared for her life too. The music that played throughout the course of the movie drags you along an emotional roller coaster: a roller coaster that goes up with victory and joy, down with worry and fear, and loops around with suspense.  The tunes on the soundtrack created a reaction from the viewer; they made you feel what Katniss or Peeta were feeling in the moment.  The beating of the drums or strings of the violin, the fluctuations between soft and loud, and the variations between fast paced and slow paced music all added to the pathos of the film.  Each song was logically placed to accent the emotions during the scene. Soft, gentle music was played when the characters were feeling sorrow and grief, while loud, powerful music was played for suspenseful and fearful scenes. I think that the length of the songs also added to the logos of the film because they were just long enough to emphasize and never became the dominant effect.  Most importantly, the placement of the array of sounds added the most logic to the soundtrack.  The producers of the film covered silent scenes with background music and they often associated the most sorrowful, suspenseful, and victorious scenes with music. 

Overall, I thought that the film score influenced the variety of the scenes in a positive manner. I think that the composer created a balance of sounds that imitated the emotions of each character.  Because of the credibility of James Newton Howard, because of the convincing appeal to emotions, and because of the compelling timing of each track, I would give this soundtrack a five-pickle rating. 

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