Maike Helmers
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The rush of the ride
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This chapter argues that the creative and evocative use of sound throughout BBC’s drama Bodyguard played a particularly important, though generally unacknowledged, role in the show’s success. Analysis of the prolonged opening sequence, in which the protagonist thwarts a plot to blow up a moving train, reveals how claustrophobic visual framing and dynamic editing contribute to an overarching atmosphere of threat. However, the most critical factor in producing the intense paranoia that pervades the scene is the aural mise-en-scène, a blend of composed music and sound design. The discussion explores a carefully nuanced soundscape integrating diegetic sonic components, such as metallic screeches and groans apparently emanating from within the scene’s train setting. These aural elements transform the composed non-diegetic music into a liminal acoustic presence that shifts between sound design and underscore in a manner resonant of the musique concrète, pioneered by Pierre Schaeffer.

The chapter argues that these aural themes act as accelerants for the dramatic tension of the overall narrative, as well as metaphors for its protagonist’s mental state. It further explores the ways in which the text uses aural and visual points of perception to create an ambiguous psychological portrait of Bodyguard’s central protagonist. It then traces the ways in which similar aural themes emerge extra-diegetically in subsequent scenes, where the story setting no longer provides a diegetic rationale for their inclusion. This chapter argues that Bodyguard’s complex sonic structures represent far more than an aural reflection of visual storytelling: here sound design undercuts, intensifies and challenges the visual domain.

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Sound / image

Moments in television


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