Films: Ann Hornaday on use of sound effects in ‘Secretariat’ and other films
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Here’s a moviemaking challenge: How do you inject suspense into a story millions of people already know?
In his film about Secretariat, the 1973 Triple Crown champion and one of the most famous horses in history, director Randall Wallace rose to that challenge in an unconventional way — he appealed to filmgoers’ ears, rather than their eyes. Even as the images in “Secretariat” would depict well-known events, Wallace decided, he would infuse the movie’s soundtrack with an almost subliminal tension. So as the chestnut colt — called Big Red through most of the movie — makes his way from the Kentucky Derby to the Preakness to the Belmont Stakes, discerning audiences can make out something beyond the roar of the crowd and thundering hooves: the sound of Secretariat’s heart beating.
Wallace hit on the idea of making the heartbeat part of the sound design of “Secretariat” when he discovered that the horse’s real-life jockey, Ron Turcotte, had ridden a horse whose heart had burst during a race, killing the animal and seriously injuring Turcotte. “It occurred to me that we could hear that reality in a subtle way,” Wallace says. “That horses’ hearts do burst and that Secretariat was going so hard, so fast, that there was a real concern.”
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