Forest rain and bird chirps in Paranoid Park

Paranoid Park by Gus Van Sant was the opening movie at Cinepur CHOICE film festival in Brno in 2008. From all of the movies I watched there, it had the biggest emotional impact on me. The story is simple, but it is told beautifully and there is a lot of great examples of cinematic storytelling to look at.

One of my favorite scenes is definitely the shower scene. It takes place after an accident at train tracks, where Alex, the main protagonist of the movie, kills by mistake a security guard.

This would be a harrowing experience for anyone, and especially for Alex, who is just 16 years old. He is really confused, struggling what to do, thinking, if he should call somebody and say what happened.

That night, he doesn’t go home, but stays at his friend’s house. He takes off his clothes and puts it in a black plastic bag. After that, he goes to the shower.

Paranoid Park (2007)
Paranoid Park (2007)

The whole shower scene was shot in slow-motion and in close-up. Close-ups have the ability to make us feel as though we are experiencing everything through the point of view of the character. That means, we can get inside their head and experience what they are experiencing.

For sound designers, this is a great opportunity to play with the sound, especially in this case, where they can get into a mind of a 16 year old teenager, who killed a man.

So when we get into the shower, we’ll hear at the beginning only simple water drops, but this changes very soon. In a moment, we’ll hear some kind of processed bird sound (I might be totally wrong here), which rises constantly in the pitch. Meanwhile, the sounds of water drops change into a heavy forest rain. Then you can clearly hear bird chirps – notice the bird tiles in the background – and after a while, you’ll hear all sorts of other bird sounds. All of the sounds are slowly rising in their intensity and volume. So what we are hearing in this scene, describes perfectly the troubled state of mind of our main character.

I didn’t have the opportunity to read the original script, but I’m almost sure, that it was all scripted, including the bird tiles in the background.

Great screenwriting, great directing, great scene. What else to say? Perhaps only, choose carefully what tiles you’ll have in your shower cubicle, just in case…

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