π (Pi) – Case Study

The scene from π which I have chosen to create a case study for is the subway scene, which portrays disgust.  It starts with our main character Max in the subway taking pills for his migraines, which uses Aronofsky’s iconic hip-hop montage.  This is when we see a series of quick actions and sounds in quick succession, to highlight a series of events in a short period of time.  In this instance we see Max open the pill bottle, pour a couple in his hands, eat them and then close the bottle, in under two seconds.  We then see Max sitting in the subway, and begin to get a migraine, which is shown only through sound.  We see Max toss and turn during his migraine until it succeeds a little and he looks across the platform.  On the platform opposite he sees a jewish man holding a briefcase in one hand a blood dripping off his other hand.  Max stands up from the bench and shouts at the man in anger, and then runs across the bridge being filmed on a snorricam to the other side.  When he reaches the other side the man is gone, but the pool of blood he created is still there, this confuses our protagonist.  He follows a trail of blood droplets slowly to the stairs of the station.  He sees a brain sitting on the steps, and takes out a pen.  He goes slowly to prod the brain, but when he does his migraine returns loudly and he spins around to look as the sound we hear is like a train, to highlight where he is, as in other points of the film his migraine does not make these train noises.  He does this again.  The third time he does it he pushes the pen in further, and the noise is even louder.  This time when he turns around there is a train headed right for him and the lights engulf him into whiteness.  I will include a youtube link for reference.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aulRoQTK5HY

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The scene starts with a hip-hop montage of Max opening pills, pouring pills on his hand, eating pills, then closing the box. The audio syncs up to the visuals well and we hear an electronic squelchy bassline underlay it quietly. This cinematic style of quick actions in succession was created by Aronofsky during this film.
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We see Max sitting and as he looks at his hands we hear a very quiet, light static. This is when we see from his point of view so it shows the static is inside his head.
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This is when the migraine hits him, we first hear a loud ringing and the sound of something squeaking. The sound of a loud train is also introduced underneath this to signify his location. During this we do hear Max moaning as he pulls his hair, covers his head and punches his own head in discomfort. When we get a close up of Max’s eyes the loudest sound we hear is the static noise. When we see him punch his head we hear a muffled (Low pass filter) groan of pain. There is also the noise of a muffled (LPF) knocking on wood as he punches his head. The noises get increasingly louder and finish on a sound of a wave overcoming all of the sounds as Max sees the man.
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Max sees this man on the platform opposite his as his migraine dissipates. When he sees this man there is a high pitched ambient, metallic noise underlaying the frame. We then hear the very reverberant low frequency droplets.
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The camera pans down to see the man’s hand dripping with blood onto the platform. The drips are very reverberant and hollow sounding against the concrete. We hear a light sound of liquid dripping into liquid.
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Max gets up angrily from his bench and shouts across the platform to the man across the platform. The ambient metallic sound rings through these frames as well.
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Max begins to run over the bridge to the other side of the platform to confront the man. An interesting sound choice here is that we do not hear the movement sounds of Max, this is done to show that Max is in his head, as he is so focused on where he is going and his head is so sore. As he reaches the top of the bridge we hear the dripping again until he turns to go back down the stairs.
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As he reaches the bottom of the stairs he sees that the man he see from the opposite platform has disappeared. Max looks around and the man is nowhere to be seen.
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He sees the pool of blood and walks towards it, still without movement sounds. Max sees that the pool of blood he saw dripping from the mans hand is still present even though the man is gone. He then sees that the blood creates a trail towards the exit stairs.
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Max walks slowly across the platform to the exit, following the trail of blood. There is a string section introduced as there is only the ambient noise we can hear at that point and this gives another depth of audio. When we see this shot in particular there is another electronic piano instrument added playing staccato notes, as well as an airy ambience which swooshes round every now and again, it sounds like someone whispering in Max’s ear, probably just another manifestation of his migraine in his head.
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As Max reaches the stairs he kneels down to see that there is a brain on the steps. He sees blood running out from underneath it and seems very uneasy, obviously.
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Max takes out a ball point pen and prods the brain. As he does this we hear a ringing sound come in subtly as well as the sound of a train horn plowing towards him.
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As he prods the brain he hears the sound of a train from behind him, and he spins around scared to look for it. The sound I believe represents his brain and he feels his migraine return. As he turns around though he removes the pen and the sounds disappear, showing that he can only hear the train when touching the brain. He does this one more time, exactly the same.
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The third time he prods the brain with his pen he pushes it deep into the brain and the sond of the train continues until he turns and sees a train coming for him. The ringing sound is introduced as normal this time but the train horn takes a lot longer from start to finish to reach him.
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The train speeds towards him and engulf him in white light. The sounds are all extinguished by the light.
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