YIDFF 2007 AND presents: Sound and Documentary
Lectures by Masters of Sound
Pedro Costa (Filmmaker), Kikuchi Nobuyuki (Sound Technician)

Discussing the Sound of Cinema. A Fearless Endeavor

It is difficult to put sound into words. Kikuchi Nobuyuki says that what is important for film sound is “texture.” Texture stands in opposition to the “semiotic function” held by that which is “typical/representative.” However, the very act of trying to transpose and express sound, which is intangible atmospheric vibrations, as words already introduces semiotic functions into sound. Filmmaker Pedro Costa and sound technician Kikuchi Nobuyuki boldly took up this challenge which entails such contradictions.

Day 1

Costa says sound and image cannot be separated, that you won’t have a film if you take sound away from the image. At times sound stimulates the emotions more than image, and in some scenes sound even takes center stage. He says he basically uses the actual sound in order not to let the soundtrack be disassociated from the image, and to make it direct and uncompromising. At one point, he jokingly said, “Sound recordists have the ability of concentrating without being distracted by what is immediate. They are not as forgetful as directors . . . .”

In the second half of the session, he presented “a sort of gift” brought to image and sound, using as a sample the last scene of In Vanda’s Room. He spoke of the “miracle” that visited the film as if drawn to it of itself, as a result of waiting, prepared only to accept, instead of creating the sound deemed appropriate to the scene. Having also quoted an instance from Colossal Youth, he gave a poetic explanation that if you go down a sort of canyon and follow the flow of water, film guides the work naturally; that it resolves the overstuffing of unnecessary raw material.

As for video cameras, now tools readily available, he pointed out that they should be used like a microscope, with special attention to sound mixing and sound effects. Using Ozu’s Tokyo Story as an example, he hinted at the possibility for great discoveries cinema has in enlarging and depicting small incidents in the real world.

Day 2

Kikuchi noted that while image is limited within the frame of the camera, what matters in sound is the sound outside the frame. In other words, it is necessary to select and create sound, after grasping where the image is at in the overall situation surrounding the world of the film. He believes the sound that he senses on the set is the sound of the film, and tries to bring both into line. For example, even if the sound that was supposedly on the set is perfectly recreated in post-production, it is only a replica, not the real thing. Sounds we are familiar with, like that of an alarm clock, also change depending on the emotions of the hearer and the environment when the sounds are heard. For cinema, reality emerges through the accumulation of relationships between the visual subject and the sound, and what is important is to recreate the sound supposedly heard by the people there, and the way that they hear it.

In the second half, he gave a concrete example from The Cheese & The Worms. For example, in the hospital scene towards the beginning, the protagonist is relaxed, so lots of different sounds within the hospital come flying to your ears. Later, as the mother’s illness worsens, the audible sounds are cut down to just those around the hospital bed, and even slight sounds are heard clearly. However, this kind of sound mixing leads to manipulation of emotions within the frame through the use of sounds, and therefore is risky. What becomes important here is not easily to resort to sound creation that is cinematically convenient, and to hold back. Kikuchi says that there are times when, once he deepens his understanding of the subject, he proposes different kinds of sounds that exist in the scene to the crew on the set. It suggested his craftsmanship developed through his abundant experience (which must be precisely why Costa places trust in the likes of him).

(Kumagai Junko)

Translator: Ann Yamamoto