‘No Country for Old Men’ explores the sound of silence: it is an epic journey into one man’s poetically devastating insanity that uses such little music we are left with no option but to relate to its characters.
While watching the film for the first time, you may or may not have noticed its almost complete lack of scoring; something rarely found in cinema. The Coen brothers chose to use just 16 minutes of music throughout the 122 minute film (according to a Wikipedia article), much of which was created using metal bells called singing bowls that are traditionally used by Buddhist monks. According to the New York Times, in fact, the film is entirely ill-suited for “common theatre noise pollution” such as the eating of popcorn or crinkling of wrappers due to its largely “suffocating silence”.
The point, methinks, is character. Whenever a director chooses to use a lack of something, something else must take its place and ‘No Country for Old Men’s almost complete lack of music, or frills of any kind, accentuates its powerful and well-acted characters that take us through its desolate landscape of a film with an ironic swiftness that you would not think to find in a film largely absent of scoring.
In making your own films, think primarily about the strengths of your actors and of all other tools in your film-making toolbelt as backup so you can accentuate their strengths as finely as possible.
Try to keep in mind the following:
– How compelling are your actors on their own, without all the lights cameras and action?
– Could they fill a screen devoid of music and still be interesting?
– What is the texture of film or video you’ll be creating around them and does it accentuate who they are or conflict with them?
Essentially you need to have a clear sense of whether your actors and your film are being forced together like square pegs into round holes, or if the fit is natural… palpable.
Food for thought.