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  • Writer's pictureFilipe Leitão

Capturing the Unsaid: Elevating Visual Narrative with Music

Many aspiring film composers start their journey focusing only on what is visible on screen. When faced with an angry character, for example, the first question that comes to mind is, "What would angry music sound like?" This approach, while valid, only scratches the surface of the potential of cinematic music.


Inside Out
Inside Out (2015)

Imagine an apparently enraged character. Is he really angry? Or is he just lonely? Betrayed? Or heartbroken? By capturing a character's unspoken thoughts and feelings, music has the power to deeply connect with the audience, far beyond the superficial emotions portrayed visually. Therefore, it is essential for the composer to dialogue with the director or screenwriter of the project in order to understand what is implicit between the lines.


What truly sets good composers apart from great ones is the ability to go beyond the obvious.


To truly impact visual narrative, music must speak not only to what we see, but also to what we do not see on screen.


An iconic example of this is the score of the film "E.T. - The Extra-Terrestrial" (1982), composed by John Williams. Steven Spielberg's film tells the story of the friendship between a boy named Elliott and an alien lost on Earth.


In an emotional scene, Elliott and E.T. are saying goodbye before the alien's return to his planet. John Williams' music in this scene not only reflects the sadness and melancholy of the separation, but also communicates the love and deep connection between the two characters.


Through an emotional and touching melody, the score of "E.T." captures the unsaid feelings of the characters, adding depth to the scene and the narrative as a whole. Williams' music not only amplifies the emotion of the scene, but also allows us to feel the pain of the farewell and the beauty of the friendship shared by Elliott and E.T.



Another inspiring example is the score of the film "Hidden Figures" (2016), composed by Hans Zimmer, Pharrell Williams, and Benjamin Wallfisch. The film tells the story of three African-American women who worked at NASA and were instrumental in the success of the early space missions.


Protagonists Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson face various challenges and racial discrimination as they strive for recognition and equality in the workplace.



Through a combination of inspiring rhythms and emotional melodies, the score of "Hidden Figures" captures the unsaid feelings of the characters, adding depth to the visual narrative. The music not only amplifies the film's message, but also allows us to delve deeper into the emotional journey of the protagonists, creating a stronger and more meaningful connection with their stories.



By letting your music speak to the unsaid, you not only enrich the cinematic experience, but also create a stronger emotional connection between the audience and the characters, elevating your composition to an exceptional level. Just as the music of "Hidden Figures" elevated the story of NASA's women, your music can also give voice to the unsaid feelings and make your narrative even more impactful and memorable.


When analyzing a scene, ask yourself:

  • What can my music offer to this scene that isn't already there? Explore the nuances of the scene and the character.

  • What is this character really thinking or feeling?

  • How does this moment impact the character's hopes, dreams, desires, or fears?


By answering these questions, you will begin to notice a significant difference in how your music impacts the scene. Instead of simply reflecting visible emotions, your music will become a means of capturing and expressing the deepest, unsaid feelings of the characters, allowing the audience to connect in a more authentic and meaningful way.


So, the next time you compose for a media project, remember to let your music speak to the unsaid. It is in this emotional and narrative depth that the true power of the music lies.

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