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SoundsThe Ambient Humanities$
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John Mowitt

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780520284623

Published to California Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520284623.001.0001

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(p.40) 2. Whistle

John Mowitt

University of California Press

This chapter discusses the whistle, considering Fritz Lang's first sound film, M, and Roy Boulting's film from the mid-1960s, Twisted Nerve. In M, whistling is a part of the intricate aural and visual interweaving deployed by the film to collapse the distinction between crime and law, an effect perfectly rendered in the persistent use of whistling to relay signals from one group to another. To that extent, it too situates every scene in which it occurs immediately at the provocative level of metacommentary. On the other hand, Twisted Nerve uses whistling to invite policing into sexual reproduction. It has a fully developed musical score, and Boulting deploys it to work carefully with both the onscreen/offscreen and the diegetic/extradiegetic distinctions. Moreover, the whistling in M precedes murder, while the two murders in Twisted Nerve take place in the absence of whistling.

Keywords:   whistle, Fritz Lang, M, Roy Boulting, Twisted Nerve, crime, law, metacommentary, murder

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