Death on the Nile

Death on the Nile.

Following up on my Tutor’s recommendation to watch movies that are very familiar to me to analyze their editing sound and image, the first motion-picture I chose to watch is my wife’s favorite, ‘Death on the Nile’, I have seen many times.  Made in 1978, starring Peter Ustinov and Director of Cinematography, Jack Cardiff.

For this exercise I made notes as I watched the film of scene and shot transitions using both sound and image.

The film begins with the arrival of the first character later to be the murder victim in this scene it begins with the sound of distant church bells and bird song to suggest the atmosphere of country village life and country house life.  A later scene of a couple in an open top sports car has two layered soundtracks one of the speeding car and the other of the dialogue that I suspect was recorded separately in a studio for clarity.

the first big noticeable transition is of the young couple in a two-shot mid-closeup, male on left female on right which transitions using image merger and just as the transition starts we hear Mendelssohn’s ‘Wedding March’ and the image merges in to a newspaper picture of a wedding photo of the same man in the same left position but another female on the right.  This lasts only a few seconds before we have another transition to an office in New York.  I notice that the sound from the next scene has been deliberately bleed in to the proceeding scene to act as a link.

Another technique that I notice is to match sounds and volume of sound for some transitions.

In this film some scenes were made to suggest silence however even these scenes were not truly silent but filled with the sound of footsteps and or heavy breathing.  The best example of this is the scene set at the temple of Karnak as all the characters wonder through the columns the only thing we hear is the sound of footsteps of several characters on the stone floor and heavy breathing from one climbing a staircase .  This sound is then broken by the rushing sound and crash of a large stone that has fallen from one of the tall columns, almost killing two of the characters.

In a much later scene we see all the characters in the riverboat’s lounge having eaten their dinner some are quietly playing cards whilst others snooze, again the scene begins in silence except for the sound of a clock that the we first view as the scene begins.

The scene of the discovery of the murder begins with an impression of silence it is suggested that it is early morning the riverboat is moored up and the only sound is again footsteps, this time made by only one character, the maid of the victim as she brings her breakfast, followed after a short pause by a scream.

We later experience how sound is used for atmosphere in a scene set at Abu Simbel with the sound of howling wind to create a sudden dramatic effect.

The sound of the wind is merged with the sound of the water of the river and riverboat in the next transition.

In a scene that adds another character to the scene the use of sound is used to transition the view of the first character with first an announcement of the entrance of the second character by use of the noise of a door closing then the shot switches to the view of the second character inside the room with his back to the door that is suggested he has just come through.

Another example of sound used for transition is the sound of knocking on the cabin door transitions in to view of maid entering in to Doyles cabin.

This film has a lot of examples of use of image merger and sound merger as tools for transitions shots together.


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