In discussing the different sounds presented in The Lord of The Rings, I will analyze a particular scene and discuss the dialogue, sound effects and music. This scene is from Return of The King called Pippin’s Song, it uses both diegetic and non-diegetic sounds.
Dialogue is the use of words between two or more of the characters themselves. In this scene There is little dialogue is the least emphasized sounds of the scene. It is relatively short and only between Pippin and Denethor. In only a few lines, which seem harmless the audiences feels Pippin’s disgust for Denethor which allows him to say much more than just the words he uses.
Sound effects “can be used merely to intensify action or to enhance the sense of environment” (Goodykoontz & Jacobs, 2014). In this scene there is a real interesting twist though where sound effects come in to play. Except for a hand full of sound effects the entire scene is silent (except for the music) which gives the few effects and the entire scene a sense of profoundness. In actual effects, four of can be heard which are all diegetic sounds. You can hear Denethor eating his meal, almost giving him the appearance as a monster, just from the sounds he makes. This helps the audience solidify their opinion of him as disgusting, just as Pippin perceives him. You can hear the horse running to battle, but nothing else. It drives home the feeling of a heavy heart regarding battle, like tunnel hearing. The last two sounds play into the fear and despair of what we know is to come. The audience can hear Faramir unsheathing his broad sword as rides to defend Osgiliath in an almost hopeless battle. His is the only sword you can hear, but as they reach closer to the cities walls the Orcs aim their bows and we can hear the release of all their arrows. These two sounds seem to tell us the Gondor soldiers have no chance of survival, with the sound of one sword against hundreds of arrows.
The highlight of this scene is Pippin’s song itself, also diegetic. There is more than just the vocals in the music which is non-diegetic. Yet, the non-diegetic music is more that just background music, it plays as the acoustics to Pippin’s lyrics. Pippin’s song is not only beautiful it plays right into the scene of Gondor’s soldiers riding into battle and being slaughtered on the order of an evil, vile man (Denethor).
Pippin’s song and the sound effects lend credence to the time setting, as well as the film’s genre. An epic film where knights, lords, and kings are normal. Also the dialogue plays into the fantasy aspect, because Pippin labels himself as different from men and their great halls, painting himself as a humble hobbit. While the sounds are all realistic, the lack of other sounds is not. If any other sounds (no matter how small) where added to this scene then the depth of despair and inevitability surrounding the battle would not have come through on the screen.
Pippin’s Song (2003). LOTR: Return of The King. Retrieved from: http://www.youtube.com.
Faramir’s image. Retrieved from Google Images.