A Short Audio Analysis of Submarine

A Short Audio Analysis of Submarine
(2010) dir. Ayoade, R.

by James Paul Hunter  (level 2 Audio Production)

“We’re all travelling under the radar”


While watching Submarine, it became apparent to me that the overarching
conceptual themes of the film are strongly portrayed within the audio – isolation,
angst, silence. Nobody knows what anybody else is thinking or feeling, we’re all
travelling under the radar, undetected, and there’s nothing anybody can do about it.

The isolation, relative silence and focus on particular sounds was what initially
grabbed my attention while listening to Submarine.

We follow Oliver Tate as he narrates through his story. The focus of sound is brought upon that which would be
most noticeable/memorable to Oliver within any sequence, with much of the rest
being almost or completely mute; this was a technique I found to be really fascinating
as it often leaves action which is appearing on screen to be silent while diegetic
sound occurring off screen can be heard or vice versa, what can and can’t be heard
becomes selective – like memory.


During the first two kisses with Jordana (Oliver’s love interest) sound plays a vital
role. During the first instance, Jordana’s dialogue from the sequence before is
isolated as the film visually transitions to a different location, under a train bridge,
with ambient sounds from this new visual location bleeding in. When the kiss
initiates, the sound is then immediately drowned out by the speeding train which is
going over their heads, as well as the shutter sound of the camera Jordana is taking
pictures with, this is representative of the shock Oliver feels during the sequence.

View Submarine Trailer


During the second instance of Oliver and Jordana kissing there is complete silence,
conveying the unspoken change to the nature of their relationship, this then
transitions in to a more abstract sequence where music is playing.

The contrast between the realism and the abstract of the film’s sound design is
incredibly executed with more specific sequences such as moments of dialogue
being utterly grounded in British New Wave-esque realism, while montages and
sequences of narration drift over a passage of time in to the abstract and the vivid,
with the accompaniment of music, whether that be a piece from the score composed
by Andrew Hewitt or one of the songs contributed by Alex Turner of Arctic Monkeys –
this is reflective of the narrative, in the sense that the story is told through the eyes
and ears of Oliver Tate in this coming-of-age Dramedy and the cinematic structure
used reflects how the past, youth especially, is felt to be remembered by people; with
the montage sequences instilling a strong sense of nostalgia and more detailed
sequences being very much based in realism.

The collection of acoustic songs from Alex Turner often fittingly accompany the more romantic and nostalgic sequences
with Jordana while the original score portrays the mood of the investigative,
mysterious and dread-filled sequences which revolve around Oliver’s perspective of
his parents and the relationship problems they’re having throughout the film. The
musical accompaniment of the montage and narration sequences often abruptly
ends, transitioning in to the relative silence and isolation of a sequence of dialogue
or action.

Throughout the film Kubrick-esque dread-filled orchestral stabs and builds bookmark
the different “chapters” of the film to create the sense of impending doom in an
almost comical way, due to the clear anti-climax of all of this, it’s incredibly angst
fuelled and reflects the nervous nature of Oliver Tate.

The film ends ambiguously with a scene where Oliver and Jordana are reunited on
the beach after a falling out, they begin to walk silently together, while smiling at
each other, further in to the sea with only the sound of the sea accompanying them,
eventually drowned out by music – a perfect summarisation of the dominant themes
of the film, from an audio perspective.

  • James Paul Hunter

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