While there are niche audiences who appreciate a good musical, I wouldn’t consider musicals the most popular genre of our time. Frankly, movies with a heavy emphasis on music at all are often questioned and even looked down upon. Sure, I understand that characters spontaneously breaking out into song and dance may not be everyone’s cup of tea. It’s hard to suspend disbelief sometimes. But I think we are forgetting that music has a place in all films, and it’s a difficult task to find the right sounds to fit the bill.
When we watch a film, our primary focus usually isn’t on the music. We tend to give our full attention to the dialogue and the action because we think those are the tenets of the film that are the most important. It’s true, if we aren’t attentive to the dialogue, we probably won’t understand much of the film at all. However, the more subtle aspects of film — the music, the set design, the costume design, et cetera — often paint a far more complex picture than we think.
The music in any film gives emotion to each scene. Music supervisors and composers work tirelessly to make sure each note makes sense. When there’s tension, the music indicates that. When the characters are feeling joyous or guilty or afraid, the music tells us that. Whether there are lyrics or not, whether it’s popular music or music created specifically for the film, all music is important. Think about it: Films are rarely ever silent. And when they are, that means something too.
It’s not easy to find and/or create music that suits the tone of a film. When you’re watching a film, the music should draw you in rather than distance you from the story. Take a film like “Black Panther” or “Bohemian Rhapsody,” for example. The “Black Panther” soundtrack is essentially an entire Kendrick Lamar album. Done wrong, the choice of such popular music could have been jarring to the viewer. It could’ve completely shattered the altered reality that director Ryan Coogler crafted. It didn’t, though. It enhanced each scene and made each more impactful, and that’s entirely due to how it was situated in the film and how it played off of other elements of the story.
Similarly, “Bohemian Rhapsody” is filled with some of the most well-known songs in history. Of course, the film is about Queen, so this music is necessary. The music supervisor still must place each song in the film in a way that is historically accurate and that also enhances the story in some way. You can’t make a movie about Queen without hits like “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Another One Bites the Dust” or “We Will Rock You.” You can, however, make a movie about Queen that doesn’t properly use these songs to tell Freddie Mercury’s story.
Not all films have such obvious and striking music in them. Like I said, all films have some sort of music, even if it’s just a score. Still, it’s integral to the film. Every film that is in theaters or coming soon, from “Halloween” to “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” to “Creed II,” needs some element of music in order to succeed. It’s hard to realize when you see a film for the first time because you’re focused on getting the story straight. Go back and watch one of your favorite films through, and it’s much easier to focus on smaller elements like the music and understand how they play with your emotions and help the movie pack the punch that it does.
Katherine Campione is a UF journalism senior. Her column normally appears on Fridays.