Sound as a Sign and Artistic Symbol in Film

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The article searches into the significant and symbolic aspects of sound in creating the film’s audiovisual image. A system of sound meanings and the ways of their embodiment in film direction in view of the historic and esthetical stages of mastering sound in cinema is presented. The author argues that the necessity to turn to sound symbolism arises not so much from the story as from the director’s inner desire and is based on his esthetics, cultural experience and worldview.

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 Abstract: In the article, the semantic and symbolic aspects of sound are analyzed in the context of the actual problem of the creation of a screen audio-visual image. These aspects of cinematic sound have not received sufficient attention in film theory yet since they are related to the need to move from the field of cinema to the sphere of philosophical and aesthetic problems.

The theme of sound semiotics and symbolism in the film also implies an appeal to the history and content of the very concepts of the sign and symbol, as well as to the features of the director's worldview and artistic language. The problem of sound values and meanings becomes more complicated if we consider sound not only within the framework of author's (director's) aesthetics, but also in terms of its perception and understanding by the viewer. Interpreting sound as a sign or symbol in the film can be done at various levels of theorizing, in different historical and cultural contexts.

The article proposes the systematization of the semantic values of film sound, taking into account the historical and aesthetic stages of the development of cinema: sound as a sign-indicator of the epoch, sound as the exponent of existential meanings, musical sound as an artistic symbol. The possibility of forming multi-level polysemantic sound structures in a motion picture is emphasized, which can be facilitated by modern technical and technological capabilities of sound engineering. It is concluded that the need to refer to the sound symbol should flow not only and not so much from the plot material or technical possibilities of sound recording as from the author's internal need for its use, from the principles of aesthetics, cultural experience and the worldview of the director.

About the authors

Elena A Rusinova


Author for correspondence.

Russian Federation, Moscow

PhD (Arts), Associate Professor, Vice-Rector for research


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