What you see is what you get in a film.
That said, what you hear is what you earn in a film too.
Why? Because we tend to let our eyes supersede our ears as far as cinema is concerned. The very fact that it’s called ‘watching a film’ reveals a lot on where the priority lies. Of course, this norm didn’t establish itself overnight. The desire to see and let others see what you saw bears the foundation for filmmaking. Everybody loves music, yes, but photography has its basis in lens, not phonograph. For over 1.5 centuries now, we marched on, fruitfully, from capturing pictures to creating series of pictures to aligning sounds with frames and so on and so forth, with heavy strides, to have reached this point in time where everything from CGI to VFX to motion picture is entirely possibly depending on the available budget.
When we managed to make motion pictures— that’s where the term movie hails from—it freaking moves even if it fails to move you emotionally or physically from your seat—our immediate challenge was to escape the Silent Era. People loved watching movies sans dialogues but the desire to hear instead of read out placards was intense. Within a few decades, Talkies became a reality. So much so it was impossible to imagine a film with not only people speaking in it but also letting the audiences plug into the conversations. Predictably, it didn’t end there. Sound isn’t only about human murmurs. Since the beginning of Talkies, there have been tremendous — a word patented by the greatest comedian of our times — progress in sound editing and mixing. No, not just background score. It’s much more than that.
Because it’s fake.
What you manage to hear in a movie isn’t what it really is. The pitter-patter of rain is basically what frying bacon sounds like. Car engines revving in a chase scene get those profound effects because of lion roars mixed in. Remember the heart-stopping screams of dinosaurs in Jurassic Park (1993)? That was picked from the noise two mating tortoises created. Yes, it’s all a trick. But fortunately, we are into it. Nobody goes home from a multiplex thinking, “Bloody hell! They fooled me again!”
Forget blockbusters, even documentaries aren’t completely real. Yes, the holy grail of cinematic truth does so, especially when mother nature is involved. It’s impossible for the cameras to get THAT close to those dangerous animals who are victims of our voyeuristic pursuits. So, what the technicians do is they manipulate the sounds in their editing room. Like i mentioned earlier, the priority is always given to visual than aural aspects of filmmaking.
Regardless of all these gimmicks, it’s a collective victory for cinema when we experience goosebumps in a cinema hall. That’s exactly when the magic of big screen trickles into your skin.
Peeps from our generation have moved on from dull non-questions like “How are you?” and “Isn’t the weather nice?” (Or if you’re in Gurgaon: “The weather sucks, doesn’t it?”) What we ask each other nowadays is “Have you seen <insert a movie’s/show’s name>?” without revealing the spoilers. It’s heartwarming how we don’t want to spoil the other person’s joy — or help save their time—by keeping the spoilers to ourselves. Suffice it to say, we never hear anyone ask each other “Have you listened to <insert a movie’s/show’s name>?” because that’d be ridiculous.
Well, not in my case.
If you asked me “Have you listened to Rock On (2008)?”, i’d say yes. People generally fall in to four categories: Some have heard of it. Some haven’t heard of it. Some have watched it. Some haven’t watched it. I fall in the fifth category: I’ve heard it.
This happened last decade when i had a PC with a CRT monitor. So, one weekend, i was watching this film, lying down on the floor, with the headsets on. 25–30 minutes into it, the screen went blank. But the movie went on. Instead of getting up to check what went wrong, my awesome laziness made me stay put. I continued listening to the entire film. It’s only when you shut out the vision that you pay attention to the minute details that you’d miss otherwise. Not that it matters, as you tend to remember what you saw more vividly* than what you heard.
*doesn’t apply to rumours and the resulting gossip