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Surfing a political soundscape: Kathryn Bigelow's Point Break

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Abstract:

In view of Bigelow's Oscar achievements in 2010 with her Iraq war film The Hurt Locker (which included awards for Best Sound and Best Sound Editing as well as Best Director), this article explores the subversive ways that Bigelow uses sound-track and sound effects within her movies through focusing on her 1991 film, Point Break. Through close examination of the use of sound in this surfer/buddy movie and building on previous scholarly comment that identifies the two political ideologies embodied by the two central characters, I analyse the ways in which sound is used to represent both the dominant world of FBI agent Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) and the subordinate world of surfer Bodhi (Patrick Swayze). I furthermore assert that the combination of soundtrack and the ambient sounds of water is used to create a soundscape that binds the two central characters, which is key in creating a homoerotic connection between them. I conclude by suggesting that the use of sound in the movie places the world of the subordinate ideology as a preferable existence to one within a dominant and restrictive ideology, which is underscored by the homoerotic relationship between the two central characters.

Keywords: gender; homoeroticism; ideology; sexuality; sound; soundtrack; subversion; water

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/st.3.2.97_1

Affiliations: University of Essex.

Publication date: December 1, 2010

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  • The Soundtrack is a multi-disciplinary journal which brings together research in the area of music and sound in relation to film and other moving image media. A complex cultural, technological, industrial and artistic phenomenon, sound-with-moving image is a rich area for analysis, investigation and speculation. We encourage writing that is accessible to audiences from a diversity of intellectual backgrounds and disciplines as well as providing a forum for practitioners. The Soundtrack's aim is to nurture this new and expanding area of academic investigation in dialogue with soundtrack producers of all kinds.
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