Week 3 Mise en Scène – The sounds of Pearl Harbor

Tomy Dorsey playing on the radio.  Warm, gentle breezes blowing dreams into reality all around you.  Military personnel waking up, some already performing their duties, others relaxing and others thinking about what to wear for church while the sun is still rising.  Without warning, buzzing sounds can be heard from a distance, but nothing is thought about it until the sounds of explosions are rocking everyone into life, machine guns rattling the souls to action while bodies begin to burn.  It is the morning of Sunday, December 7, 1941, a date which will live forever in infamy forever etched in history.  The Japanese have sprung a surprise attack on the Pacific Fleet headquartered at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.  You can now hear people screaming, the smells of ships burning, and confusion lapping at the soul’s edge of sanity.  The atmosphere is alive with the sounds of life being interrupted with you not knowing what is about to happen next.  Or do you?  You look around and realize that you are still sitting in your seat at the local movie theater watching the movie Pearl Harbor, deeply entrenched into the scenes being recreated from that historical day.  These are the sounds that helped this movie become alive with realism, being touched throughout its script with both non-diegetic music, or elements not heard by the characters in the movie, and diegetic music, or sounds that are directly involved within the movie’s world being heard by every character involved (Goodykoontz & Jacobs, 2014).

For the non-diegetic parts of the movie, the sounds which are played in the movie are to help give emotion to those very scenes in which the audience members are watching, giving them the truest sense of what it was like to have been alive during this turbulent time in history.  Whether the sounds are to give a wakeup call to urgency, the sounds of sadness and loss, the precious moments of love, or the struggles to which victory was forged from, every single non-diegetic sound made was to give a realistic view of what the greatest generation America has ever had come to life once more, as well as giving life to those characters once more from even the simplest sounds produced.  Without these ever important sounds which only the moviegoers could hear compared to the actors in the scene who did not, these scenes would not have had such an impact on the movie or the scene that captivates the audience if those sounds were not given properly.  This is one reason as to why the non-diegetic sounds were made vital to the movie, as well as even the diegetic sounds which ensured that each character reacted accordingly.

Even the movie’s soundtrack and related music videos help give emotion to various scenes, adding a sense of why this movie was a much needed film to watch.  Every piece of music, whether heard by the characters or by the audience alone, mesmerized the audience in reliving the struggles and losses faced, while helping to be a major part of the movie.

In closing, sound was a major part of the movie Pearl Harbor just as the actions of every actor and actress were as well.  If it were not for the proper use of realism, then the movie would not have seem so realistic, even though it is based on historical data from an infamous date in American history.  If this movie had been made differently, or even in an earlier period of Hollywood history, then the sounds of bouncing bullets may not have been heard, or if a certain score was omitted, then the dramatic feel of a particular scene would not have been as important.  Realism was a major factor in the creation of this movie, and both the directors and producers of this film wanted to ensure that Pearl Harbor was made as though the audience were taking a look through a window back into America’s past.  For the audience, history was being shown live.


Goodykoontz, B., & Jacobs, C. P. (2014). Film: From watching to seeing (2nd ed.) [Electronic version]. Retrieved from https://content.ashford.edu/

Youtube. (2007 March 21). Pearl Harbor attack scene – Pearl Harbor (unedited) movie clip (2001) [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sv1niwxQgoY

Youtube. (2010, March 14). Roosevelt’s cabinet speech – Pearl Harbor movie clip (2001) [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFhY6IaUJ40

Youtube. (2012, September 1). Cook takes A.A. gun [HD] – Pearl Harbor  movie clip (2001) [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AN9SP0y1lVA

Youtube. (2010, March 2). Pearl Harbor – Faith Hill – there you’ll be – Pearl Harbor music video clip (2001) [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mfswig0jpTQ

Youtube. (2008, March 9). Pearl Harbor ending scene – Pearl Harbor movie clip (2001) [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tfYD75GvdVs


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