Spotting 101: Cast Away
“Cast Away” starring Tom Hanks is an interesting and unusual example of spotting.
The film has no underscore until the final act. None!
If you remember the film starts in the holiday season and there is source music there. You know, holiday music.
Then there is that amazingly well done plane crash which brings Tom Hanks to his island. No music there either. When something is as well done and so powerful as this plane crash sequence, the visuals and sound effects are more than enough.
Not only was that sequence great without music, but adding music to the plane crash might have removed the feeling of realism, turning it into an adventure perhaps, which would have gone against the realism that set the tone for this film.
During Tom Hanks’ time on the island there is no music either.
Sure. there are moments when there could have been music, like when he removes his own tooth or when he first makes fire, but the absence of music has much more impact than its presence.
The first and most obvious result of having no underscore is that the feeling of being alone on the island is heightened.
But what isn’t as obvious is that music would have added something familiar, even comforting, while the emptiness of the film’s soundtrack created a feeling of uneasiness which must have been palpable in the theater. (I only saw this film on DVD and I still got that feeling! It must have been great in a cinema with a few hundred people all sitting in stunned silence.)
Having no music for the first two acts of the film was a bold choice for sure, but it pays off big time when Tom Hanks finally departs the island.
Do you remember the scene? He is on his raft and he finally breaks free of the breakers, that barrier which had held him on his island for years!
When he realizes his is free and looks back on his island which had been his home for so long the music starts, a gentle string adagio.
It’s brilliant and a great film moment, visuals and music coming together in a way that can only happen in film.