Item Details

Listening to Ingmar Bergman's Monsters: Horror Music, Mutes, and Acoustical Beings in Persona and Hour of the Wolf

Issue: Vol 6 No. 1 (2013)

Journal: Journal of Film Music

Subject Areas: Popular Music

DOI: 10.1558/jfm.v6i1.5


Many of Ingmar Bergman’s films are indebted to the horror genre through topics that explore physical and psychological torture, mutilation, illness, murder, sexual taboos, dream, psychoanalysis, madness, and the supernatural. These emblematic horror tropes are reinforced with close-ups of expressive mouths and eyes and a masterful manipulation of shadow and light, helping to create an aesthetic that is at once intimate and haunting. There is a third plane, an aural one, on which Bergman intertwines music, a rich palette of sound effects, deathly silence, and blood-chilling screams. This paper focuses on the significance of music and the voice (or the lack thereof) in Bergman’s soundtracks and expands ideas put forward by Julia Kristeva about the “abject” and by Michel Chion pertaining to the omniscient and bodiless acousmêtres or “acoustical beings” and mutes of film. This article examines mutes and acousmêtres in Persona and Hour of the Wolf, and how the quality of their voices or, indeed, their silence, aids them in articulating their identities and manipulating and tyrannizing those around them. Bergman’s characters threaten to destabilize the narrative if and when they find their bodies and/or voices, and thus maintain an ominous power as they straddle diegetic and non-diegetic aural space.

Author: Alexis Luko

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