Traditionally, you can divide all movies about music into two categories. The first group of movies tells its viewers about the life of a real musician who achieved success on the world stage and made history. These include numerous films about Michael Jackson, Kurt Cobain, and Freddy Mercury. The second group of films usually takes music as an idea. These movies present fictional stories about fictional people. A biographical novel is a part of the first group, a fantasy novel with fantasy elements is a part of the second group. Regardless of the group, if a musician is involved in the plot, or is in fact, the main character, they usually portray them in a state of conflict with the society around them or their inner demons.
Cinema about music
Music and its performers often became the subject of close attention of writers and directors. At the same time, music serves as a kind of inspiration for filmmakers. To see what I am talking about, you just have to watch a good movie about music or a musician. Despite the fact that this idea is found in almost all films, the joy of music still inspires the audience. Just look at some of the biggest movies of the last year, Bohemian Rhapsody and Madonna: Birth of a Legend. They were both well received by the critics and the audience. But why is that? Why are movies about music and musicians so popular? Well, performances themselves are great, but what is happening in the artist’s head? What are they going through? And most of the time, it is these stories that are quite important in the context of a person’s career and work.
Music in the cinema
Let’s talk about the music in the cinema. Few people know that in all films there are three types of music:
Background music includes all the natural sounds that should be in a particular frame. Background music fills the frame of life and creates the impression that cinema is a real-life reality. Thanks to the background music, the viewer has a feeling of complicity, as if they are also present in the frame. Most of the time, the effects of background music are subconscious, yet it is quite important nonetheless. Background music is a tool of immersion, which is one of the most crucial aspects of any movie.
Source music is part of the “real” life of fictional characters. Recently, there’s been an interesting sound engineering trend, when the source and off-screen music become one. In particular, this situation occurs when a character is wearing headphones or is dancing. This technique is used in order to make a viewer believe that the things they see are real, a person that they see is real and maybe even relatable. This is, of course, yet another tool of immersion.
Off-screen music can be so beautiful that it turns into an independent work in art itself. Thus, there are entire concert programs of professional orchestras, which play the music from various classic movies. This off-screen music is often referred to as soundtrack, or OST for short. There have even been some videogame orchestral concerts, Nier Automata has some of the most popular pieces of off-screen music.