Revised Film Analysis
The Future of Food, a documentary film by Deborah Koons Garcia serves as an effective persuasive piece on issues in today’s food industry. Throughout the film, appeals to logos, pathos, and ethos are appropriately distributed, emphatic, and blunt. Alongside those three elementary tactics of persuasion, the second most obvious tool used was that of music. The music score of a film holds a role of great importance. The purpose of a documentary is that the viewer remembers the main message and learns something from the experience. Often information is lost to one’s memory and never recoverable. The strongest of memories are tied in some way to emotion. The addition of music in a documentary pulls desired emotions out of the audience and makes the message that much more impactful. Hence, the added emotional impact causes the stories and ideas to be held in a more easily attainable memory file.
In the newly released Disney Pixar film, Ratatouille, the young French rat named Remy has a very passionate love of food and the infinite combinations of flavors to experience. When various foods release their flavors to Remy, he associates the affair with music. Similarly, different scenarios in The Future of Food are made more memorable through comparisons to different types of music.
The Future of Food documents the corruption of the government and multiple food industry giants involved in the creation, patenting, and marketing of genetically engineered organisms. Independent farmers’ cases argue against the morality of “owning” breeds of plants. They soon find themselves wrapped in lawsuits derived from patented seed unintentionally falling onto their land and out of their control. All Supreme Court verdicts were influenced directly by a major corporation, specifically Monsanto. The unexpected conclusions consistently sided with Monsanto’s patents and left frustrated farmers with depleted pockets, silos, and confidence.
The director alternates between monologues and exposition pieces to approach both appeals to logos and pathos. The conventional use of logic is contrasted with the musically backed, heartfelt pathos- especially evident in farmers’ recollections of being engrossed in court appeals and stripped of life savings and optimism. The score chosen has somewhat of a rural theme. It makes the audience comfortable and almost more intimate with the interviewee. Music is used to further arouse the audience’s empathy.
Music relations are often obvious. Cultural music is added to a scene with a stereotypical setting. Audiences easily make connections with the music and the content of the overlapping scene. When first introduced to Percy Schmeiser, a small farmer in Saskatchewan, Canada, the producers include calm country music. Percy sits in his tractor, drives his pick-up and explains his situation while sitting in front of his seed elevator. Seeing him in his everyday attire and rituals combined with the folk-like music makes Percy relatable and personable.
Another scene opens with an aerial view of the colorful, patchy, Latin American landscapes. The setting is emphasized with cultural, Mexican string music. Hundreds of varieties of maize and its history are displayed to emphasize the significance of the plant on Mexican society. After explaining the importance of Mexico’s agriculture in contrast to that of the United States, the theme concludes with a market scene. Streets filled with countless stands of produce add to the positive portrayal of the culture. Sporadic clips of a marimba player in the farmers market are included to recount the entire market scene as well as associate the music with another cultural aspect of Mexico’s history and current society.
A less direct inclusion of music causes an equally strong impact. Oblique pieces in the film score are often used to reflect the intended mood of a particular scene. The opening of The Future of Food describes the history of farming. The respective music is very awe inspiring. It causes the audience to appreciate the purity and vitality of produce. This admiration of food is quickly contradicted by acknowledging the advancement of chemical fertilizers and adulteration of sustenance farming. Strong back beats and ominous gusty noises add to the intimidation of the information. When the exposition transitions into describing the Green Revolution and advancements in biotechnology, the score becomes very robotic and mechanical.
A minor piano progression is repeated multiple times when the narrator elaborates on research. The topic of biological research is returned to multiple times. Each instance the topic is mentioned, the same piano tune follows. When the specific science behind the research is presented, an eerie echoing tone is produced. Although the two aspects are very similar, the fine line dividing them is accentuated by the subtle differences in background music. The two sounds are combined when the science behind Flavor Savor tomatoes is followed by their market premiers and consumers’ dislikes. Overlapping the two sounds is most likely used to accent the impact of sciences on the public.
The piano tones are reintroduced in the Latin American excerpt. After causing the audience to empathize with the cultural significance of maize, disapproval rouses when this historical plant is seen being obstructed by science. The previous tone progression is replaced with a guitar plucking on top of the familiar echoing noise. The uncomfortable minor tone negates the intimacy from the native guitar timbre.
Toward the end of the film, individual government representatives are recognized first with their federal position, and second with their previous relation to the Monsanto company. The frames are blank with only the text fading in and out. The simplicity of this portion is used to focus on the irony. Paradoxical messages are further stressed with raspy accordion music. Once again, the score is in a minor tone and can somewhat be interpreted as a tango. The punctuated notes dramatize the aggression felt by the audience.
Then final punch of the producer’s argument comes in a comparison of the richness of former rural communities being lost to the heartless urbanized agriculture of today. The lost innocence is clearly weighted with the solemn violin music in the background. String music generally illustrates hope, innocence, or tragedy. Transitioning from angering the audience to the call to action, the music becomes hopeful, inspiring, and “goosebumpy”. Dozens of images flash between biotechnology themes and demonstrations of people taking action. Bagpipes are used to uphold the hopeful atmosphere. This continuation of an inspirational mood makes “good” images look better and the “bad” images look worse.
The absence of sound appeals to audiences emotions just as much and often more than descriptive film scores. Silence isolates the main point being delivered. A North Dakotan farmer, Rodney Nelson, exemplifies the educated farmer still being demolished by Monsanto. Throughout the film, multiple monologues are schematically placed with Nelson describing his experience with Monsanto and research done to further defend his case. Nelson always speaks from the driver seat of his pick-up. His monologues never have sound. This absence of background noise focuses the viewer on the scene’s importance and hones in on the climactic information. The intended point is sharpened by this “production” of silence.
Various sounds, or lack thereof, are designed or assigned to specific places to instigate targeted emotions. Producers orchestrate film scores to grab audiences from a desired angle. In his book, Soundtrack: The Music of Movies, Mark Evans declares that “music and sound effects give film a third dimension…the music and sound reach into the theater and embrace the audience.” Well known tactics include utilizing strings to portray hope or innocence, conjuring sorrow with a solo brass piece, or heightening percussion for added suspense. The website sonomics.com was created to provide amateur film makers with “instant access to the sounds [they] need.” Hundreds of songs and sounds can be found with a simple key word or setting. The creators of the site programmed certain pieces of music to automatically link to specific ideas.
Music and pathos are infinitely interlinked. The goose bumps one attains during the playing of the national anthem, the comforting memories of an “oldie-but-goodie”, and even the behavioral provocations associated with Barry White’s music exemplify the many influences of music. A favorite song can be relied upon to lift one’s spirits. Classical music has been linked to increased concentration. Popular songs with strong back beats make it difficult not to get up and dance. The introductory scene of a Star Wars film takes one back to a comfortable, imaginative, adventurous world light-years away. Remy hears various composers with each delicious morsel. Music adheres to all humans as its own language. This language’s interpretations pacify the desired emotions of composers and their audiences making it truly universal.