Goodfellas Sound Essay

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Bela Balazs and the Sound in Goodfellas

Bela Balazs’ theory of sound is an eye-opener to how we take the sound film for granted. He beautifully explains how sound improved the film viewing experience after living in a time talking pictures didn’t exist. While Goodfellas wasn’t the first film to include sound, it takes advantage of sound in many different ways that Balazs explains himself in his chapter, Theory of the Film: Sound. Through the use of Bela Balazs’ concepts of asynchronous sound, silence, and acoustical close-ups, Goodfellas is able to convey tension to the audience that would otherwise be less effective without sound.

After the opening title sequence, we see three men in the car together. After a few seconds, the audience, …show more content…

As the camera zooms in on Conway and DeVito's faces, nothing but the thumping sound and crickets fill the space. All the characters seem worried, but not frightened. Balazs also explains the phenomenon of silence in a sound film and how it’s vastly different than no sound at all. He states that the “physiognomy of men is more intense when they are silent” (Balazs 119). In this example, the silence makes the scene a very tense environment. Even though the audience is not aware of the exact situation, they conclude that there’s a feeling of uneasiness within the characters about what is in the trunk. The film achieves this by adding silence to the scene to emphasize the emotions the characters are feeling. A film without sound cannot perfectly reproduce this effect. The dramatic effect that comes from silence in a sound film wouldn't be apparent because there is less of an emotional impact on the viewer. Balazs argues that you cannot experience silence by hearing nothing. Instead, you experience silence when you “can hear every distant sounds in a very large space” (Balazs 118). In this scene, the experience of silence is executed by including sounds of crickets and the thumping of the trunk. While sound has not been completely eliminated, the absence of sound, going from inside the car to outside it, is a dramatic difference and very clear to the audience. This contrast completely changes the …show more content…

Close to the end of the scene, there’s a close up of DeVito as he laughs about the painting. However, the camera pans and starts zooming in on the window behind him. As the camera zooms in, the sound of his laughing slowly starts to fade away. At the same time, the car the guys were driving comes into view and the thumping noise begins to increase in volume. Balazs explains the concept of acoustical close-ups, which are used to allow the audience to hear sounds that they might not hear in the real world. It may be a sound or noise that occurs often and naturally in the world, but it may not be a sound one is used to recognizing as significant or perhaps the sound is "drowned in the general din" (Balazs 121). In this example, there is no way the characters can hear the thumping of the trunk as they converse with each other. It’s also not logical that the audience would’ve been able to hear the sounds of the trunk unless the director pointed the audience’s attention to it. Using acoustical close-ups, the director can focus the audience's attention to a specific point of interest. The ability to isolate a certain place or object using sound can emphasize the importance of that thing to the audience. In this case, the thumping sound reminds viewers of the opening scene of the film. With this realization, a sense of uneasiness should come to the viewers

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