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High Anxiety and Diegetic Sound

by Clifford Galiher

This gag from High Anxiety, Mel Brooks' 1977 parody of Alfred Hitchcock films, takes advantage of our expectations regarding non-diegetic scoring in traditional Hollywood films. The music cue that we hear just after the driver suggests "foul play" is usually inaudible to the characters, and designed to enhance the foreboding mood of this news. However, the characters seem to be able to hear the music too, and we subsequently see that it's in fact coming from a source within the scene, making it diegetic.

High Anxiety - Foul Play & Diegesis

This gag from Mel Brooks' High Anxiety demonstrates the distinction between non-diegetic and diegetic music. What we would normally assume to be a non-diegetic scoring cue is revealed to be diegetic (detectable by the characters).

from High Anxiety (1977)
Creator: Mel Brooks
Distributor: 20th Century Fox Home Video
Posted by Clifford Galiher