Sound design as narrative device in contemporary film: Subliminal soundscape of war and terror in Sicario (2015)


The article provides an attempt to analyze selected characteristics of contemporary cinematic sound on the basis of the sound design in Sicario (2015, dir. Denis Villeneuve), which encompasses a digitally-processed orchestral score with originally texturized sound effects. I elaborate on the features of the sound design in Sicario in regard to production and composition. Moreover, I attempt to demonstrate the ways in which sound in Sicario, due to its characteristics, is outside any typical musical genre. Finally, the article focuses on sound effects which are used in an unusual way, for instance, so as to reflect characters’ personalities. The analysis of Sicario demonstrates that a creatively and meticulously constructed sound design in film has the power to exceed its traditional, supporting role in the narrative.


film score; American cinema; sound design; soundtrack; Sicario; Denis Villenueve

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Published : 2019-09-30

Kniaź, L. (2019) “Sound design as narrative device in contemporary film: Subliminal soundscape of war and terror in Sicario (2015)”, Crossroads. A Journal of English Studies, (26), pp. 33-46. doi: 10.15290/cr.2019.26.3.03.

Lidia Kniaź 
Maria Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin, Poland  Poland

Lidia Kniaź is a PhD candidate at Maria Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin, Poland, and a 2016 winner of the 2nd Prize in Poland’s contest for the Best MA Thesis in American Studies. Her research interests include science fiction music videos, Afrofuturism, and sound design in film. She is currently working on her dissertation on Afrofuturist music videos.