Music, Sound, and the Moving Image

Mission: Impossible-ing

Towards a Theory of Cinematic Vitality

Music, Sound, and the Moving Image (2018), 12, (1), 53–73.

Abstract

Lalo Schifrin’s title theme for the Mission: Impossible television programme and the more recent films is among the most well-known musical motifs in popular culture, and in this article I propose a vitalistic approach to understanding its function. Most analyses of musical thematic material are rooted in semiotic and narratological methodologies; musical motifs are thus understood with reference to their meaning (cultural, socio-political, etc.), and function as elements of storytelling. Taking a different approach, I draw together film phenomenology and theories of non-verbal communication among persons to develop a theory of cinematic vitality, and an analytical approach I call ‘vitality analysis’. I show how Schifrin’s theme – always and inextricably fused to other media threads running through a given cinematic expression – gives rise to an embodied gestural sensation unique to the Mission: Impossible franchise. Vitality analysis furthermore enables a way of addressing Mission: Impossible’s reflexive relationship to other members of the film series.

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Author details

Durrand, Mark