Soundtracks are the heart and soul of any good movie.
Arguably, there is the plot, the most important aspect of any type of story, but a movie needs to be more than the story it is telling. A movie has to present the story through visual actions and characters, editing, and sound. There is a reason the credits at the end of movies are so long- it takes a lot of effort to transfer a plot from words to the big screen.
When we move through life, we have no soundtrack. It’s one of the things that disappoints me most about the difference between those on screen and those in the real world. It disappoints me for the same reason that soundtracks are so important to any good movie.
Music communicates things that words can’t.
When I am walking down the street, I am simply going about my everyday life. How is someone to know anything besides the fact that I am going somewhere? However, if I were to walk down the street to the Imperial March from Star Wars, I am transformed into someone to watch out for because of the dangerous mood it creates. If I were walking down the street and a jazz tune was playing somewhere in the background, even though I might be doing the same thing, suddenly I might be portrayed as a happy person and all of a sudden, the movie is a romantic comedy.
People aren’t always the most forthright of creatures. Sometimes, we don’t say something that needs to be said, because of fear or social stigmas. In movies you can have the best actor in the world staring out a window but stronger, more yearning, emotions cannot be interpreted just from actions and facial expressions. It’s hard enough to know what people in real life are thinking without edits cutting to memories.
That’s why soundtracks in film are another language entirely between the viewers and the action. With slow music, you are clued into heartbreak or loss. When the music picks up pace and gains momentum, you can expect tension to be building or action to begin. In movies, there is nothing else to communicate things otherwise not picked up on.
It makes things memorable. When you hear Hedwig’s Theme, it immediately echoes the mood of the Harry Potter story without having to read or watch it. The soundtrack played during a moment of intensity embodies the rising action. Sure, you would never get the story from music alone but it adds a necessary element to the visual art of making a film.
Unnoticed, the soundtrack runs beneath every edit and action that happens in a movie. In this way, this is why the soundtrack is the heart and soul of a film- never seen but creating mood and emotion.