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2 pages/≈550 words
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MLA
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Literature & Language
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Movie Review
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English (U.S.)
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Sound Design in Coen Brothers No Country for Old Men (Movie Review Sample)

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The task for this paper was to explain the outstanding sound design in the film \"No Country for Old Men\" produced by Coen Brothers.

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Sound Design in Coen Brothers No Country for Old Men
Ethan and Joel Coens' No Country for Old Men is a 2007 American masterpiece that received Oscar awards for best director, best supporting actor, best adapted screenplay, and best film. The thriller also got Oscar nominations for cinematography, film editing, sound mixing, and sound editing. The most striking feature in this film is the originality and creativity in the sound design. Skip Lievsay, the sound supervisor and also the re-recording mixer presented his best in the film, where he handled the dialog and music mixing. No Country for Old Men's excellent sound design lacks a non-diegetic sound that runs through the entire length of the film and is based on silence and well-crafted sounds that dictate the tension and contrast in the film.
Skip Lievsay was nominated twice for an Oscar award for the best performance in sound mixing and sound editing due to his achievement in No country for Old Men. The sound supervisor gave the film a unique sound design that was almost devoid of music and full of a silence and the exact sounds created by guns, voices, the wind, and other factors in the environment of the characters. Craig Berkley, a sound designer for the film who was also nominated for the best achievement in sound mixing Oscar award, describes the sound design as "menacing" (Riehle 7). Lievsay and his sound designers team crafted the film's sound design is effectively adapting the film to Cormac McCarthy's book on which the film script is based. In the book, for example, a shotgun with a homemade silencer is used. The designers henceforth created the sound of a shotgun that uses a homemade silencer (Riehle 8). The resultant sound design henceforth had different sounds for each activity, unlike the contemporary sound effects used in movies.
The sound designers also use silence effectively by integrating sounds created in the environment. For instance, the designers had to find the sound of the right wind for the different environments in which the characters were (Johnson 213). The sound design of the film comprises a different background sound for almost every scene, and the sound of the winds was one of the most critical points of the film (Schwarzbaum 4). To achieve this feat, Lievsay and his team started working more than four months before the final composition. The designers kept on improving the sound tracks before the final shooting of the film so as to craft the perfect design (Scott 10). This means that the excellent sound design in the film was not just a result of creativity but also hard work.
Lievsay's sound design in No Country for Old Men has a great effect on the viewers. Describing this effect in the New York Times, Scott explains that the silence in the movie awakens the viewer's senses and ecstatically absorbs attention of the viewer (3). The silence and lack of sounds in the film also create great suspense. For example, in one scene a man sits silent in the darkness of his hotel room, and the footsteps of his pursuer, the creaking of the corridor floorboards, and the beeps of a transponder are heard. The silence and slowness in this scene create both suspension and tension as the viewer expects something to happen, but has no idea what will happen (Scott 3). The main aim of the sound designers in this film was to create a unique style of suspense far from the safety net created by the effect of music in contemporary films (Lim 5).
Coen Brothers' No Country for Old Men has won several Oscars but is most acclaimed for an excellently crafted sound design. The sound designers, led by sound supervisor Skip Lievsay gave the film an excellent sound design by avoiding the use of non-diegetic music. Rather, the designer...
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