11 September 2015
Cue of the Week: “One Car at Night”
This cue from the film Against Time had a more spoilery title on the album, of the form “[Character Name] Dies”. These days I lean towards the view that track titles shouldn’t reveal plot points like this unless the person dying is, say, Julius Caesar. But I will reveal that a beloved character is hit by a car as an unintended consequence of a heated argument. The music first follows the growing tension of the fight, with mournful woodwind solos over a prolonged bass pedal, then shifts gears at the tragic moment.
I liked the cue so I’m going to fire off questions. Feel free to answer or not as time allows. (And I do realize that the answers could be complex, involved, etc.)
Based on your note, the cue begins over an argument which presumably is emotional, intense. I’ve seen scenes such as this rendered without music.
I wondered how one decides the issue of music versus no music in a particular scene. That is, how does one come to a choice about whether or not to simply let the actors ‘wail away’ at each other verbally versus music in the background.
Assuming that one chooses to have music and given that arguments come in all shapes and sizes (in each other’s faces, one person on the defensive, etc.), does the nature of the argument at least to some degree dictate the pace of the music?
Based on the cue alone and without seeing the scene, I’d say that in this argument, somebody starts out trying to make a point but is always losing or on the defensive.
At the point in the cue at which I think the car crash occurs, there is a sort of inevitability to the finishing moments of the cue. as opposed to say, if the car crash came out of nowhere, was surprising/shocking, etc.
It seems as if those who watched the scene knew that disaster was coming.
Just my interpretation.
Whether a given conflict scene has music depends on a number of factors: the overall style of the film (realistic versus larger-than-life), the importance of the characters and the conflict of the story, the position of the scene in the overall story arc, the predominance of sound design in the scene, and many others.
And sometimes it comes down to a matter of taste and instinct; do we want a more gritty, you-are-there feel, or a sense of dramatic and emotional commentary? Do we want to nudge the audience’s interpretations, or be understated?
In this particular case, the film was character-driven fantasy, and, without getting too spoilery, a loved one was about to die as a side effect of a conflict between two well-intended parties. The story set up a sense of impending loss; the music simply followed that sense of inevitable progression. In that sense, your armchair analysis was dead on!