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Kulezic-Wilson, Danijela

Composing on Screen: The Musicality of Film

Ph.D. University of Ulster, 2005

Music has been used as an inspiration and model for film since the invention of cinema. This thesis explores the theoretical basis for the comparison of film with music and investigates different aspects of the influence music has had on film and its creators, from the days when comparison with music was a strategy for proving film’s artistic autonomy to the present-day impact of MTV. As its main proposition this thesis declares that musicality is a potential inherent to the film medium that can be realised through various devices, in different stages of the film-making process. The fulfilment of that potential invests film with a fluency, immediacy and affective impact similar to music.

The main theoretical argument is presented through the comparison of the features shared by both arts – temporality, rhythm and kinesis. Its purpose is to explore the basis for creating analogies between film and music and the sources of film’s own musical potential. Since film is a multimedial form which contains music as part of its audio-visual structure, the comparative analysis is combined with the exploration of interactive relationships between film and film music. As this thesis shows, the employment of sound and music in film represents one of the main devices in revealing and realising film’s own musical potential. The insistence on acknowledging the aural aspect of film is particularly instrumental in the discussions about film rhythm and kinesis, exposing the shortcomings of the existing, visually biased definitions and presenting the argument for a new, integrated view of film’s rhythmic and kinetic features.

To demonstrate different facets and sources of film’s musical potential, its features of temporality, rhythm and kinesis are explored and compared to music in the contexts of the opposing aesthetic choices of the shot and the cut. The main theoretical propositions are finally tested in the case studies of Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man and Darren Aronofsky’s Pi as the representatives of these opposing aesthetic approaches, which provide a comprehensive insight into how contrasting treatments of time, rhythm and kinesis can create very different yet effective examples of composing on screen.