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Martyn Hollinshead

12MN

Apocalypse Now Analysis of Sound

The section of film shown is the famous scene in which the American soldiers attack a Vietnamese village in attack helicopters. It is a 20 minute sequence which opens with the soldiers rallying and commencing take off. The scene then follows them into battle, with shots from inside the multiple helicopters to give the audience an overview of key characters and to also show the soldiers feelings and emotions. Continuing on, the Americans close in on the village and we see the camera switch between the helicopters and the people in the village. The world famous Ride of The Valkyries plays and the battle begins, with bullets, bombs and carnage taking over the next 10 minutes. Once the fighting is over, a napalm strike is ordered in and then the commander is heard saying: I love the smell of napalm in the morning, one of the most popular quotes from the film. There is some discussion about surfing, and then one of the soldiers runs to a nearby boat and steals one of the surfboards (which are leaning against a helicopter) as a joke, and the scene ends. The sound used in the scene is varied in terms of techniques used because there are several shots which require these variations. If we begin at the start of the scene, when the men are walking to the helicopter there is lots of diegetic sound on screen and off screen, such as helicopter blades whirring and soldiers marching around. There are no non-diegetic sounds and it is very parallel to the scene, as this adds to the realism of the surroundings and makes it therefore more believable. This continues when the troops are seen talking to each other in the helicopter, except a lot of off screen sound is used like peoples voices, however we believe them to be there as the scene is structured to make us presume so. An interesting use of a sound bridge can be found at around the one minute mark when the man blows the bugle. Some atmospheric background sound (non-diegetic) begins to fade in and gradually surpasses the volume of the diegetic sound, and this transits into some eerie electronic soundtrack, which is contrapuntal in nature as it does not directly relate to the diegesis. This gives the take-off of the army a dark and sombre atmosphere, and when combined with some creepy lighting and smooth dissolve transitions, it gives the moment a unique feel; it provokes emotion in the audience because the eeriness makes you unsure of what is going to happen next, or what the soldiers are thinking. The sound bridges into the next scene which takes place inside the commanders helicopter and continues for a couple of seconds as the next scene amplifies over the top of it. The diegetic sounds in this scene are both off screen and on screen, with most of the off screen noise coming from radio transmissions. It is during the third minute of the clip that the song Ride of The Valkyries, made famous by Apocalypse Now, starts playing. At first the sound is diegetic as we can see where it is coming from (a cassette player), but the soundtrack becomes non-diegetic as the scene continues to unfold and the Americans get into formation to start the attack. Between 4:37 and 5:10 the camera switches suddenly to the

Martyn Hollinshead

12MN

Vietnamese village. There is no sound bridge which emphasises the abruptness of the transition, because it is this sudden change that allows the audience to see the contrast between the noise of the incoming fleet (which eventually can be heard ominously approaching from off camera as the villagers run for shelter); it represents the calm before the storm. As the attack rages on through the first five minutes the non-diegetic soundtrack (Ride of The Valkyries) can be heard playing throughout, which adds to the epic feel that is being portrayed. It is however the only contrapuntal sound that can be heard throughout this section though, as the rest is full diegetic parallel explosions, gunfire and general war effects. There is no need for any other overlays than the soundtrack as the audience can fully enjoy the action and become immersed in the display of triumph through violence. The positioning of the sound changes frequently too, for example when an explosion is to the left of the camera or a gun is fired behind it, giving the scene a realistic multi-dimensional effect. When the helicopters begin to touch down in the landing zone, Wagners Valkyries piece fades out and bridges the gap between the scenes. After a couple of conversations between the commander and his troops (which contains diegetic sound parallel to the scene again for realism), the scene switches in a similar fashion to how the village transitioned before, except it shows some fighter planes approaching to commence a napalm strike on the village. The fighter pilots voices can be heard in a cleverly created diegetic way, as the audience cannot see the pilots talking, however they can hear them as if they were listening to the radio messages, with a voice effect added to make them sound like they are talking through the radio. The sound doesnt bridge the scenes as it gives the planes a sense that they are far away from the war zone, as it is rather quiet in their airspace compared to that of the soon to be decimated village. As the commander recites the renowned quote: I love the smell of napalm in the morning, the sound range is focused on his voice; the background sound effects arent quite as loud as his speech. This allows the audience to concentrate on his words, and is one of the main reasons why the quote is so well known, because people notice his voice over the rest of the scene. As the soldier flees and steals the surfboard, there is some parallel non-diegetic music that plays in the background. The reason why it is parallel is because it sounds native to Vietnam, with various percussion and wind instruments contained within the score. Another job this music does is to highlight how the scene is not serious, because whereas before in the scene with the helicopters touching down there was no music to allow the audience to hear everything (realism) the music gets rid of the immersive feel as the scene is not to be taken seriously and therefore doesnt require less effects for more diegesis.

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