The sounds of excitement and anticipation are played out in the symphonic soundtrack to the movie ‘E.T.’ To feel the emotions of a character, in any story, helps one come to know the hopes, fears, and traits of a character. The contribution of music in the movie ‘ET’ helps the audience to gain trust and insight into those very bits and pieces of a character’s spirit, his mind set, his stance, and his behaviors.
How can a movie’s master soundtrack possibly give the average audience member that much knowledge of a certain character’s manner? Perhaps the director, Steven Spielberg, does so by repeating the common piece of music known as the flying theme. We hear the song during moments of sadness, amazement, wonder, and happiness. For example, we hear the theme when E.T. uses his power to fly the young boys and their bicycles over the forest. We hear the song so much that it begins to generate thoughts in our heads as to what the scene will mean and what new aspect of a character will be brought out in the upcoming moments of the film.
When we first meet the young character, Elliot, he is at home in his kitchen, and we hear nothing more than the sounds of his mother doing dishes and his brother playing a space game with his buddies. As an audience, all we hear is muffled sound with Elliot’s sharp, high pitched whines yelling out above the noise. We already know that he desperately wants to be a part of the older kids’ group.
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Those of us who are the youngest child of our families may automatically sympathize with Elliot’s moans and groans. We know and feel the want and need to belong and to fit in. With nothing more than the synchronous sounds of the outdoors – gates swinging, dogs barking-Elliot makes his way outside to wait for the pizza man and we are given the chance to observe Elliot alone for the first time. He is young, skinny, pale, and constantly observing the actions and sounds around him. He is blunt, full of curiosity and full of mischief. Elliot is looking to prove himself and his claims of an alien to his family.
As an audience member, I cannot help but feel a sense of want for Elliot to prove his family wrong, perhaps the musical themes in the background contribute to that anticipation. He waits outside with his flashlight, and in silence, all we hear is the constant hum of crickets, which helps to build suspense as he waits. Elliot then begins to search through the cornfield, the sounds of weeds and cornhusks as he moves slowly about personifies the anxiousness and fear that Elliot is feeling. They are the sounds which one awaits to hear each October while eagerly waiting in line for a haunted house or a hayride. They are the disguised sounds of adrenaline and anxiety. We can identify with these sounds and feelings which are presented, and therefore we can identify with Elliot.
We are not given the chance to see Elliot’s room, his element, until he introduces it to his new found friend, E.T. With nothing more than the sounds of footprints, E.T.’s purring breath, and the sight of Elliot’s wide eyes, the audience watches as E.T. and Elliot observe each other in silence. As they come to know one another one will notice that there is not dialogue, nothing more than the light trill of a string orchestra and high-pitched violins to accompany the audiences’ imaginations.
E.T. is becoming comfortable with Elliot as Elliot is doing the same with E.T. E.T. is full of confusion, which is accompanied by mischief and wonder. We see this as he explores Elliot’s room. The solo sounds of Elliot’s paint brushes in a paint tin clank together as E.T. explores. The exploration of Elliot’s room and all of his gadgets and experiments illustrates to us that he is a smart, science driven child who longs to create, invent, explore, and build. Elliot is often seen in his flannel shirt, blue jeans, and his long underwear. He is short with a sloppy hair cut, possibly somewhat of a nerd. He longs to be proven.
Now that I’ve explained the character of Elliot, I will go into more depth about the character of E.T. E.T. is a creature unlike any other. He is an alien with the classic features; a wide, bald head, slimy skin that leaves a clear residue, wide eyes, and he doesn’t speak our language, but he learns it eventually. He rarely speaks and he constantly observes his newly remodeled environment. Spielberg helps his audience come to know the character or E.T. by commonly using point of view shots. The first example of this is used in the beginning when E.T. is hiding and watching the hunters in the woods. This helps us to come to know his fear.
We also see another example of this in the Halloween scene. We see E.T.’s point of view through the two eyes in the white sheet, which is disguises him as a ghost. As a character, E.T. is often seen watching for sadness and longing to help. For example, in the scene which takes place in Elliot’s closet, we can see the look of hurt and sympathy for Elliot’s younger sister, Gertie, in E.T.’s eyes when Michael and Elliot threaten to hurt Gertie’s doll if she dares to say a word about E.T.’s presence in the house.
E.T. is fearful of confrontation, and most often he screams and jumps at the sight of a threatening object or that of a loud, unfamiliar noise. By the end of the film, we know that E.T.’s heart is full of love as it beams a bright red glow when Elliot expresses his feelings for him, which ultimately brings E.T. back to life. That scene gives us the guarantee that E.T. thrives off of kindness and love. He is gentle and curious. The synchronous sound of E.T.’s purring breath, like that of a baby kitten, expresses to the audience that he is gentle and soft hearted. It seems almost impossible that E.T. could ever cause any harm. Aspects such as these help us to know and fall in love with his character.
The music is what feeds the soul and emotion of ‘E.T.’ It helps the audience to overcome the silence and leads them to think during frequent scenes with no dialogue. The redundant, orchestral themes that play in and out of many scenes help to identify each character’s mood and state of mind, which ultimately brings the audience to know the character’s spirit. The music helps up to know when they are sad, happy, content, hurt, or amazed. It leaves us with the idea of not only what they are feeling or how they appear on the outside, but who they are on the inside and what their nature is as a character and individual.