Melodramatic Railway Sounds

The video essay is the format par excellence for film sound studies. Whereas written research has a hard time translating sounds and music to the page, the video essay can play around with the very sound clips it studies. This skilfully made video by Oswald Iten is a case in point. It uses every tool and trick that the format has to offer to analyze the sound design of David Lean’s 1945 classic Brief Encounter.


In a sharply edited video, supplemented with tasteful visual icons, each of the railway-related elements of the soundtrack is broken down. Their thematic uses are explained, their recurrences and variations exposed. Iten even offers alternatively scored versions of some scenes to illustrate how this would change the effect (and affect) of the scene. Like Lean’s movie, this video essay might well become a classic – in videographic sound studies.