From Critical Realism to Politicized Expressivity: Integrated Soundtracks in Contemporary Mexican Cinema

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The intersection of sound design and music scoring has been employed expressively in contemporary Mexican cinema to convey complex social commentary. This dissertation investigates how the Mexican films Vuelven, Sin Señas Particulares, and Sanctorum exploit the potentials of the soundtrack to create politicized aesthetic experiences. My research is in dialogue with the discourse of the “integrated soundtrack” – I argue that these films strategically blur the distinctions between dialogue, voiceover, ambient sound, foley, and music in order to create heightened psychological and embodied experiences. A historicized discussion of frameworks for sound in cinema grounds my analytical tools, highlighting topics such as the audiovisual means of subject construction, the role of sound in creating a sense of “realism,” and the hierarchical relationship between the human voice and other elements of the soundtrack. I draw from the work of Danijela Kulezic-Wilson, Michel Chion, Lisa Coulthard, and Rick Altman, among several others. The case study films are then situated within a larger historical and political development of Mexican cinema, using the writings of Ana Rosas Mantecón, Ana Nahmad Rodríguez, and Carmen Huaco-Nuzum as points of departure. Through close readings of the three cinematic texts, I propose that these works combine the audiovisual techniques of “realism” (in portraying stories of immigrant brutality, government oppression, drug trafficking violence, and the severing of family relations due to these factors), with those of legibly stylized fiction (the expressive deployment of the fantastical, the grotesque, the sublime, and the surreal) in order to summon up a symbolic form of “overcoming” of these challenges. This aesthetic move affords their human subjects redemption, agency, or dignity in situations where these have been stripped from them, opening up space for the eliciting of political awareness, empathy, and catharsis in audiences.

Last modified
  • 07/15/2022
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