there are nights that i cannot sleep unless i watch a film silently. i purposefully turn off the subtitles so that i am only watching the images. (by the way, how do you really feel about subtitles?) i feel certain that in my subconscious somewhere, these images are exercising a peculiar effect on my dreams. for awhile now, my nighttime film of choice has been hiroshi teshigahara’s 1962 film pitfall.
i enjoy watching films without sound. if the film is well done, you don’t need the sound to tell you the story. the images do all of the work.
sound designer/film editor walter murch says that the ideal number of tracks of audio for film would be zero. he tries to get the audience to a point, somehow, where they can imagine the sound completely. “that’s the ideal sound,” says murch, “ the one that totally exists in their minds because it’s the most intimate.”
this bedtime experiment works because it settles my mind and readies me for sleep. i invariably stay awake only to a certain point in the film and then drift off to my dreams with those images in mind. i wonder how many versions of the film i’ve actually seen.
this week i decided to finally watch pitfall with an alert brain and the sound on. i was rewarded with a very beautiful sound design and the music of toru takemitsu! his music is as much sound as it is music and it functions as a character in most of teshigahara’s films.
pitfall is a strange tale. it’s a richly layered crime story littered with ghosts, and there are points in the story that seem to make as little sense to the characters as they do to the viewing audience. in these moments, it is as though takemitsu’s score is the only element of the film that knows exactly what is going on.
having now seen the film both with and without sound, i understand what murch is saying. i have a more intimate relationship with this film now because i have seen the film so often with the sound only in my mind and in my dreams.