Anxiety and phobia in film
I'm adapting a novel into a screenplay for a masters project. In the novel, the protagonist has a particular phobia (fear of clowns) which induces severe anxiety attacks. Throughout the novel, he has an internal dialogue which talks us through the four stages of the attacks (from onset to full panic).
I'm doing some research on the use of visual systems/motifs rather than exposition when translating an internal dialogue to screen. I love The Haunting and although the cinematography is incredible, a voiceover is used liberally which I hope to avoid. Vertigo, is an obvious choice and iconic, Don't Look Know is another inspiration for me. I found the introduction of 'the black room' in Under the Skin fascinating and extremely creative.
I wonder if anyone has any interesting examples of films that use innovative cinematography to express anxiety (or in adapting an abstract concept or emmotion) that they might share with me?
Thanks in advance for any inspiration.
All the best,
I won't name specific shows, but wanted to point out an audio trick of heavily compressing and muting the audio to convey a state of mind, often shock. Typically, the audio comes roaring back to normal volume and frequencies as the character "snaps out of it".
Yes, don't forget sound...
Mark's comment reminded me of something...
Earlier this week I was reading a little article about "10 Unwatchable Films," movies that literally drove people from the theatre.
There were ones you might expect, like "The Tree of Life," which had so many people leaving that theatres were putting up "No Refund" signs, and "Cloverfield" with such continuously-moving and shaky handheld faux-found-footage that people were literally throwing up from motion sickness.
But another film they mentioned, I had not heard of, and darn it I can't remember what it was now (and can't seem to find the list again). Anywho, in this movie the filmmaker wanted to maintain anxiety in the audience, so the soundtrack included an imperceptible low-frequency continuous tone that was known to make people feel anxious... and apparently it worked.
I think David Lynch does that, too... to a less-subliminal degree... many of his movies have a continuous low-pitched industrial hum as ambience that I personally find a bit anxiety-inducing.
Then again, silence can bring anxiety, too. I think a great deal of the anxiety in Hitchcock's "Psycho" comes from Bernard Herrmann's great score (and not just the shower scene, which Hitch originally wanted to do sans music). But conversely, in "The Birds" I think a lot of the power and anxiety comes from the complete and total lack of any music track... you keep expecting there to be a score and there never is any. It puts you on edge.
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
Should anyone be interested, I actually accidentally stumbled on that list, with discussion of the anxiety-producing soundtrack.
The movie was Irréversible, a 2002 French film.
According to what I read...
Director Gaspar Noé added low-frequency background noise to the soundtrack of his revenge thriller. Though such extreme bass waves are inaudible to humans, infrasound "has been demonstrated to induce anxiety, extreme sorrow, heart palpitations and shivering," the BBC reported in 2013. "Naturally-occurring infrasound has been associated with areas of 'supernatural activity' as well as being produced prior to natural disasters such as storms and earthquakes."
"Our response to certain kinds of noise is something so profound in us that we can't switch it off," science writer Philip Ball told the BBC. "Film composers know that and use it to shortcut the logical part of our brain and get straight to the emotional centres."
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.