Frank: A Sound Recordist's & Designer's Dream/Nightmare


Above all else Frank is a weirdly wonderful piece of film with the perfect blend of acting, writing and sound that creates a surreal world that you're not unsure couldn't actually happen.

I brought in the new year watching this film which my mother accidentally got for me misreading my texted Christmas list where I asked for Frankenweenie. Luckily I also wanted to watch Frank but didn't want to seem weird asking for it (because asking to be bought an animated film wasn't already odd).

Frank is a film about a paper machete head. okay it's not. It's a film told from the perspective of Jon (Domhnall Gleeson); an aspiring musician who joins an eccentric pop band led by a mysterious but charming and enigmatic man in a paper machete head. He's called Frank (Michael Fassbender).

Also starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and Scoot McNairy as band members Clara and Don, this cast truly popped on screen and made the weird world of Frank come to life in a way that shouldn't have been possible.

However I'm not here to talk about how amazing I thought their performances were, or how well Maggie Gyllenhaal can play crazy, or even how a paper machete head could be so evocative as a main character. No I'm here to talk about the amazing work that was done with the sound and how the film showcased it and made it part of the film.

I probably only focused on this while watching because of the sound workshop that I went to but I'm glad I did because the amount of sound packed into the film, the way it was recorded and how it was dubbed over the scenes is truly masterful especially with this film as sound was a key element of making it the magical piece of art that it is.

The film mostly takes place in Ireland as Jon finds himself an unwitting prisoner to the band as they try to record an album (something which he was not aware of when they set off). It's here where the sound of the film truly shines.

The cast had to learn and play an array of songs from the mind of composer Stephen Rennick such as Lone Standing Tuft (an ode to a stray carpet strand), Frank's Most Likeable Song and the heartbreaking I Love You All. This in itself was amazing but the fact that the sound recordist had to capture the normal sound (dialogue etc) as well as multi-track band recordings. This was a unique challenge that I can't even imagine how they went about doing as there's a lot of moving parts to recording all of that but however they went about doing it...worked.

The other amazing thing they did was working with getting sound to work with the paper machete head and the physicality of Fassbender's performance.

You witness the band taking sound recordings of their various surroundings as they record their album. This of course mimics what actually went in to making the sound for the film which involved recording every door closing and opening, room tone in every room of the location they were filming, and other interesting sounds that the recordists thought would be interesting to capture. All of these sounds created an amazing blend of effects that were seamlessly used in the film's mise-en-scene and in the soundtrack of the film and even in the sounds that were created for the band.

The way that the sound designer's and editor's took all these recordings and put them together and blended them to create a uniquely etherial sound is just simply amazing to me.

As we have all come to expect from films, sound is a key element in taking the audience on the emotional journey and Frank is no different. We can't help but be sucked into the emotive music created by the band and by Frank even with the mostly nonsense lyrics that to the laymen such as myself mean nothing.

There's ofcourse much more I could say about the film such as it's excellent use of Twitter and YouTube through it's protagonist/narrator Jon or the amazing tension between Jon and Clara that explodes spectacularly or even the similarities that can be seen between all the keyboardists that Jon uncerimoniously breaks free from and unwittingly breaks the band in doing so. Yes there's lots that can be said about Frank and from my perspective all of it good. But I think the one thing that truly stands out for me is the sound...

Flattered Grin

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