A Vigil

Sound design continues to be the technical component that independent films — with their microscopic moolah — seem to have the hardest time pulling off effectively.

Smaller-scale flicks are of course just as capable of creating artistry as dynamic and dazzling as their bigger-budgeted brethren, but the finer details of sound design often elude them…literally. Most can seamlessly evoke the obvious elements of a soundscape — dialogue, major effects, etc. — but they fail to capture the full complexity of our everyday cacophony. Footsteps and gunshots are easy, but if a movie’s aiming for naturalistic immersion, it needs to pay as much attention to the peripheral details, the individual noises that capture a space’s personality. By instead relying on basic, generic ambient tracks, the result can sound like artificial dead air.

Half of me wants to argue that this aural vacuum in A Vigilante is supposed to reflect the existential void left behind by domestic abuse, the sort that alienates victims from their own lives. But there’s a difference between a soft palette and amateurism.

Some indies attack the issue by facing it head-on; instead of recreating realistic environments, they lean into their potential weak spot by crafting outsized sound designs — noticeable-minimalism falls under this umbrella — not intended to reflect a traditional aural experience. They’re built to be as critical of a communication method as their more conventionally-discernible counterparts (acting, dialogue, plot, etc.).

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