Friday, March 21, 2008

robert bresson, and sound

about his use of sound in l'argent, the director thinks that "while music flattens a surface, makes it into an image," sound, on the contrary, "lends space, relief. it arrives and the screen deepens, thus bringing on the third dimension".* the idea is that one must never duplicate an image with a sound ("a sound must never come to the aid of an image, nor an image to the aid of a sound....the image and sound must never reinforce each other, but must each work in turn in a sort of relay,"**) and if, in au hasard balthazar the first car accident is seen, the second will only be heard....

his work with sound is thus rather ambiguous with respect to the notion of realism. true, bresson has several times said that sound increasingly interests him because he believes that the tape recorder captures true sounds, whereas the camera greatly deforms the real...

as we have seen, however, with the example of the paris-milan train that michel takes in pickpocket, the director is more interested in conveying the subjective impression of a sound than capturing its real impact. this is why - explaining that what we think we hear is not what we really hear - bresson recommends one "go over [the organized sounds] one by one in silence" to "mix them in the correct proportion."** in fact, if the soundman had recorded the real sounds of the lyon train station where the thieves operate, he would have obtained only a blurred cacophony corresponding to the mechanical realism of what the machine picked up. but humans know how to focus their ears selectively, and while one person will make out through the din the striking of a clock because he or she wants to know the time, another will hear the sound of the wheels on the tracks of the train he or she is waiting for. for neither of them will the sounds form an auditory "hubbub." this is why bresson records all sounds separately to be able to use them to compose a true score occasionally placed in the service of rhythm, but at other times in that of meaning, such as when he presents the consequence before its cause: in l'argent, we are in the cell with yvon, and can make out a strange noise coming from behind the door. it's only in the next shot that bresson shows the corridor, enabling the view to identify the sound of a vacuum cleaner.

rené prédal, from robert bresson: l'aventure intériere,
found in robert bresson edited by james quandt, cinematheque ontario, 1998
(pages 102-103)

* robert bresson, cahiers du cinema, no. 104, february, 1960
** robert bresson, notes sur le cinématographie, gallimard, 1975


sroden said...

oh that's f-ing great!!!!!! of course, it makes enormous sense, but i never knew they knew each other. amazing thing to ponder for the day...:-)

the art of memory said...

ponge? yes, really something.
i wish this book had an index, because there are many instances i have found by accident, but i know there are many more to be found.