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An On-Line Glossary of Film Style

& Its Metaphors

diegetic sound any "natural" sound source that originates from within the scene including foley effects and automatic dialogue replacement (ADR also known as looping, dubbing) unless used as a voice over.

non-diegetic sound any sound source that originates from outside of the scene, such as a composer’s soundtrack.

Examples of stylized diegetic and non-diegetic sound




Caddyshack caddy.jpg (4904 bytes) (Ramis 1980)

Description: In the opening title sequence we hear the lush, full-bodied voice and instrumentation of Kenny Loggins’ "I’m Alright" (non-diegetic) soundtrack playing over images of the Bushwood Country Club golf course, the gopher, and the first establishing shot of the Noonan residence. When we then cut to the interior of the crowded house the music continues, but has been transferred to Danny’s AM radio (diegetic) and the sound’s lush quality is translated into the flat, tinny, non-dynamic AM sound. Once Danny (Michael O’Keefe) "escapes" from the bickering house via the fire escape and is outside, the music continues as soundtrack (non-diegetic).

Significance: Loggins’ song clearly articulates Danny’s interior thoughts, is his theme song as it is the film’s, and when we are inside the Noonan house we discover Danny listening to it but that it is compressed, squeezed. This stylized sequence can be cited to support the argument that the impoverished sound reflects his situation during this summer between high school and college and the prospect that he might end up "working in a lumberyard all his life." Not until he gets free of the tinny sound and the crowded house, and enters the lush sound away from the house and on his own, with his desires (indicated by the point of view shot/reaction shot of him bicycling past the mansions on the "right side of the tracks") will he be free.