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Film Language: The Impossible

Sound and Composition

The movie The Impossible is a movie based on the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. The film follows a family of five during their holiday in Thailand, where they unfortunately have to experience a natural disaster: a tsunami.

WARNING: The content of this clip may be disturbing/offensive to some audience members.

This clip is at the beginning of the movie. It is the day after Christmas and the main characters are at the pool, having fun playing around. This is accompanied by calming music. The character's laughter is also highlighted by the sound of them being louder than the music and background noise.

However, around the timestamp: 0.06, the sound of a blender becomes much louder as it pans across the scene showing the blender at the end of the sequence. As the sound of the blender starts to be the same volume as the music, the blender seems to break down and as the blender shuts, so does the music. This leaves us with a extremely quiet atmosphere. According to ECG Productions, "An award-winning Atlanta video production, post production and animation company," silence is often used to create intrigue and make the audience members focus on what is happening on screen. This is proven by this quote "Silence makes a scene feel important, and if the viewer deems a scene important then they are more likely to pay keen attention to it."

I believe this was a great use of silence since this makes the audience ware that something is wrong due to the electricity shortage, shown by the blender and the utter confusion of the staff member. Not only that, the silence leads us to the next scene when we hear loud wind gushes and the family talking at a lower volume, unaware of the arrival of the tsunami.

At 0:28, the camera tracks the movement of the red ball, the ball being in the centre of the scene. The sound of it bouncing seems to be the loudest until it stops moving and the rumbling starts. The composition used in this scene makes us aware that the ball will be important later on in the movie. This is proven right by the fact that at the end of the movie, the father spots the ball at the hospital where the rest of his family resides, making him get off the truck and reuniting with his family.

Not only is composition and sound used effectively, we also get a glimpse of them using the lens focus at 0:32. At the start, the lens is focused on the water droplets on the clear panel in front of one of the main characters. Leading the audience to take notice of much they are moving due to the earthquake/tsunami. Then as it starts to focus on the characters face, we see her worried look, informing the audience that something bad is about to happen.

After the rumbling starts, it does not stop. Getting louder and louder as the waves rush to the resort. This is accompanied by the sounds of birds which we then get to see once the camera moves up, where we can see the birds fleeing the waves and cutting to look at all of the people looking around in confusion. The rumbling is still quite quiet at 0:48 however, they made the illusion that the rumbling got louder by making the birds quieter. As if they were drowned out.

Since we can't see the waves yet, it creates a sense of tension, according to Tom Barrance from "Suddenly there is tension and mystery. This kind of sound, which comes from something that’s not on the screen, is called asynchronous sound." Which makes the audience uncomfortable since they do not know when we will see the cause of this sound

This is when it cuts is a wider shot size, showing the trees as they fall down, creating sounds of crashing, and eventually the wave engulfing the building in front of our main characters. When we do see the wave, sound becomes much louder, as if we were there with them.

In conclusion, this scene uses sound, or more specifically volume, to create a sense of tension in the atmosphere, which is great for a natural disaster movie.


ECG Productions. “Silence and Why It’s Important in Film.” Entertainment Creative Group, 2 Feb. 2017, Accessed 30 Dec. 2020.

Barrance, Tom. “Telling Your Story: Film Language for Beginner Filmmakers.” Learn About Film, Accessed 30 Dec. 2020.

Leonard, Elizabeth. “Maria Belon: The Impossible’s Real-Life Survivor.”, 21 Jan. 2013, Accessed 31 Dec. 2020.


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