Discoveries from case studies – Pi

The scene from Pi which makes the audience members feel discomfort and disgust is the subway scene.  In the scene the lead character Max has a migraine in the subway station, which is so painful he goes into a dream state.  He then chases a man on the platform and follows a trail of blood to a brain on the subway steps which he then prods.

The original case study is here.

The first sound design choice is that there are many different zooms of Max’s face whilst he is having his migraine, once it zooms closer there is a very loud static noise with a squeaking noise underneath it too.  The noise is discomforting to listen to and makes us feel his pain, much like in 127 hours, and we empathise with Max.  This makes us feel uncomfortable as the sound we hear is very difficult to hear, the way that it is combined with the visuals of a zoomed in face makes us know how Max feels.

After Max decides to run across the bridge to the man on the opposite platform, we hear no movement sounds from him and his clothes.  The camera is a snorricam which is aimed directly at Max’s face and we can hear his voice and breathing, so we know that we are in a dream state in Max’s sore, migrained head.  This is an effective sound design in showing just how determined Max is to reach the other side by making us focus just on him visually rather than sonically.  This shows how effective not using a sound can be rather than adding to the soundtrack with sound effects.

The last effective bit of sound design in this scene is when Max begins prodding the brain on the steps with a ball point pen.  As soon as he does this he hears a train horn coming from behind him.  This shows that it is his own brain that he is touching.  The train horn is putting both into context that he is in a subway train station and that he is in a dream state.  The horn is loud and abrasive and very imposing on the ears.  Much like the static earlier in the scene it is very clear that we are hearing what Max is feeling, so we can relate to him more intensely.

So in conclusion, through this scene and the one from 127 hours an effective way to make your audience feel discomfort and disgust is loud and abrasive and exaggerated high pitched ringing noises.  This is because we almost feel these noises rather than hear them because of their pitch and register, like a ringing in our skulls.  This makes us uncomfortable as we can relate to the pain rather than just witness in visually, which is already an effective medium.

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