Seção Painel Vol. 01 - Nº 02 - 2020

Us, final fight scene: a semiotic analysis of sound design

Final fight scene: Adelaide is trapped with her doppelgänger – Red – in the hideous laboratory where all the other copies were hiding and living their bizarre lives. Red holds the protagonist in handcuffs and here we have the final confrontation, which is intertwined with childhood memories of Adelaide, while dancing Ballet, and of her evil version following her movements in an animalistic and desperate way.

The fight occurs at an abandoned laboratory, in a kind of imitation of what would be a classroom; on the blackboard we can see a drawing of what would be the only reference from the outside that Red has. In the background, we hear a song that refers to dance movements, at the same time that Adelaide fights for her life – in a desperate way – while her clone has light movements, subtly escaping her attacks. It gives us a sensation that they are making the dance of the dead.

Then, the music that takes place in the background is composed of pizzicatos from a  violin and bass notes from cellos, in a way that reminds us of a string orchestra. In addition to this reference to Ballet, one thing intrigues us here: while the figure who should have grotesque movements is subtle and silent, Adelaide – in her desperation for life – brings us a behavior very consistent with our antagonist, grunting and acting like an animal fleeing from a predator.

The confrontation’s sound design consists of dragged chairs, chains and blows, these grunts refer to the fact that something is out of context in this fight, and that the sounds emitted by Adelaide are not natural.

Red finally hits Adelaide with scissors and, then, disappears; the background music becomes heavier. Adelaide continues to walk through the laboratory until she enters a dormitory. At this point, the music becomes just tense, almost like silent noises. The sound design of Adelaide’s memories are now more evident, just like the blows that Adelaide throws in the air. The music here is present only when the childhood Adelaide appears dancing, until the shadow of her evil copy appears and we hear tense violin effects again. At this moment, Red’s final attack takes place, while Adelaide turns quickly and hits her in the chest, ending the confrontation and screaming like an animal. The music stops, we hear the scissors falling on the floor just like Adelaide’s doppelgänger. 

The woman in red sits down, and here we have the sound of blood starting to come out of her mouth, and a mocking whistle that, for some reason – that we will only discover in the next scene, makes Adelaide angry, what makes her finish killing the enemy by hanging her with the handcuffs’ chains that are holding her arms. Adelaide is screaming like an animal again, we hear the sound of breaking  bones… Then she starts some kind of winning-evil laugh, stands up and goes after her kids that are hiding somewhere at that weird place.

What draws our attention in this film are the mannerisms of the protagonists’ doppelgängers, that are extremely striking and measured, with animalistic and cartoonish grunts and noises. In the analyzed scene, the antagonist completely loses these characteristics, and the one who assumes it is the protagonist. The perception that something does not fit is not only due to the characters’ body expression (which could be explained by the tension of the fight that is happening), but by the sounds emitted by them, which are interspersed with the memories of a child who grew up in the middle of ballet performances – and then a song that refers to that context – and noises, screams and grunts that refer to the mannerisms of the antagonists, assumed here by the alleged victim of the confrontation.

The doubt about this hunt begins to be exposed through this sound passage, where the characters change positions. Then, the real connection between antagonist and protagonist is revealed through the explanation of what happens in Adelaide’s childhood, and what had, in fact, caused the traumas that we see at the beginning of the narrative.

Musicista formada pela UFES e uma das idealizadoras do podcast "Terrorias da Conspiração", atua como sound designer, arte educadora e é especializada em Arte e Tecnologia e Produção Musical.

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