Features and Columns · Movies

Why the Language of ‘Mandy’ is Sound

You’re a special one, ‘Mandy.’
Mandy score Church
XYZ Films
By  · Published on September 4th, 2020

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video that explores the sound of Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy.

The first time I saw Panos Cosmatos‘ Mandy, a fight broke out in the theater between two men. Which, of course, is somewhat fitting for a film steeped in violence with a distinctly macho flavor. But when I think back to that afternoon, what astounds me is that even this obnoxious disruption could not pull me out of the film. I was hypnotized, locked in, and totally absorbed.

After all, Mandy is an intensely visual film, a psychedelic terror trip of grit, grain, and blooming light that intones the high fantasy of a pulp paperback. In truth, Mandy has a lot in common with silent films. Which is not to say that sound is unimportant or unnecessary. Far from it. What I mean is this: the language of Mandy is sound, not dialogue.

Mandy is an enveloping, saturated aural experience. A wall of noise that never disintegrates into cacophony. It is a rich portrait of dark ambient drones and echoing melodies without melody. It offers a rich, cohesive soundscape of soft, unkillable love themes and hungry, psychotic guitar wails of pure evil.

The video essay below unpacks how Mandy‘s use of sound as storytelling differentiates the film from its modern peers and from the (mostly) extinct practice of the classic Hollywood film score. Drawing from the concept of the “film concert,” the essay examines how an innovative modern composer, the late Jóhann Jóhannsson, approaches aural storytelling.

Watch “Mandy: The Film Concert“:

Who made this?

This video was made by Alex Hobbs as part of “The Practice of Film Criticism” module at the University of Warwick Film & TV Department. You can read more about Hobbs’ process in creating the essay about two-thirds of the way through this post.

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Meg has been writing professionally about all things film-related since 2016. She is a Senior Contributor at Film School Rejects as well as a Curator for One Perfect Shot. She has attended international film festivals such as TIFF, Hot Docs, and the Nitrate Picture Show as a member of the press. In her day job as an archivist and records manager, she regularly works with physical media and is committed to ensuring ongoing physical media accessibility in the digital age. You can find more of Meg's work at Cinema Scope, Dead Central, and Nonfics. She has also appeared on a number of film-related podcasts, including All the President's Minutes, Zodiac: Chronicle, Cannes I Kick It?, and Junk Filter. Her work has been shared on NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, Business Insider, and CherryPicks. Meg has a B.A. from the University of King's College and a Master of Information degree from the University of Toronto.