[Editor's Note: With the critics' awards just around the corner and awards campaigning already in full swing, Team Experience decided it was the right time to begin a series championing some of our favorite contenders lurking on the fringes of the conversation. In 'Team FYC' we're individually selecting favorites in all Oscar categories starting today. To kick things off, here's Andrew Kendall on "World War Z" - Amir]
You might expect a thriller about a zombie infection spreading across the world to depend most on its visuals for effectiveness but months after seeing Marc Foster's World War Z – a uniformly impressive summer blockbuster – the technical aspect I’m still thinking about is its excellent sound design.
“Film is a visual medium”, it’s one of those phrases we hear ad nauseam, but sound didn't become a fixture in motion pictures for no reason. The work a good sound mixing team does in augmenting mood in a film is something which cannot be overemphasised. Oscar aficionados will remember that the difference between sound editing and sound mixing is the former's focus on the recording and creation of specific sounds and the latter on the film's entire soundscape, i.e. the layering, mixing and necessary balancing of score with dialogue and created sound. World War Z benefits from good sound editing, but it is the layering of the various, often discordant, sounds which forms the sometimes terrifying milieu.
From the get-go the sound team is working effectively at building the tension, like the early city scene where the silence inside the family car gives way to the cacapohony of a city under siege. But it is later sequences, like the horrific build-up to a celebration gives way to horror when zombies scale a Jerusalem wall, or the unbelievably taut silences at the WHO facility in Wales that really thrill. The sound mixing becomes indicative of the film’s own ability to know when to go big and when to dial it back, and ultimately it’s the wisdom of knowing not just what to do but how and when that makes the sound mixing of World War Z an easy choice for an FYC.
The film has received some notice for having two women helm the soundmixing team. Lora Hirschberg is an Oscar winner for Inception, Anna Behlmer is a ten time Oscar nominee. It’d be great to see them credited for their excellent work here in a year when the Best Picture hopefuls look to be hogging all the attention in the craft categories.