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Non-diegetic film music as a narrative agency in Christopher Nolan's Interstellar (2014)


  • Rasmus Carlsson

Summary, in English

This study sets out to investigate the non-diegetic music in Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar (2014) in order to highlight its implicit narrative functions and meanings. The theoretical approach consists of semiotic concepts such as ‘Cognitive denotative’ and ‘Cognitive connotative’ functions by Emilio Audissino, ‘Myth’ and ‘Anchorage’ by Barthes as well as Claudia Gorbman’s ‘Connotative Cueing’. The musical concept called ‘Leitmotif’ is also used. The methodology used was a textual analysis, based on the ‘Multi-code mind-set’ where one thinks about film and music as two separate and competing entities that hand in hand creates dramatic representations.
The results show that the non-diegetic music can function as a narrative agent that creates and builds up tension, dynamic and energy within narrative contexts; an assistant to the spectator that helps one to better comprehend a narrative context where it connects one emotionally as well as perceptually to it and the characters within that context; enables the spectator to embrace a interpretation of implicit meanings in a narrative context; cues the viewer into narrational positions that can either lure the spectator into or prepare one for an upcoming narrative context; an indicator or ignitor of a specific diegetic event that heightens the mood and excitement of the visuals; a supporting film element that keeps a static, slow or boring passage of a scene interesting; enables the spectator to embrace a interpretation of implicit meanings in a narrative context; addresses what is implicit within the drama of a scene which helps the spectator to see what is not in the visuals; an narrative agent that can take the form of a specific music piece where its musical characteristics can carry a deeper narrative meaning which elucidates when one considers its musical modifications as well as its pattern of occurrence and reoccurrence within the narrative and its contexts.
It is also highlighted that there are both old and new films that resembles to the sound mixing ‘issues’ Interstellar has which sometimes interfere with the spectator’s perception of dialogue because it has been, periodically, slightly mixed beneath the level of music and other sound effects and therefore has a lower level in the hierarchy of the spectator’s cinematic attention.


Publishing year




Document type

Student publication for Master's degree (two years)


  • Languages and Literatures


  • Interstellar
  • non-diegetic music
  • Christopher Nolan
  • Hans Zimmer
  • implicit narrative functions
  • semiotic concepts
  • leitmotif
  • denotation
  • connotation
  • film and media history
  • film music


  • Lars Gustaf Andersson (Professor)