Most ASMR scenes in movies are created unintentionally. The scenes accidentally happen to have subtle sounds or soft whispers which stimulate ASMR in some viewers.
The new movie, “Battle of the Sexes” with Emma Stone and Steve Carell may be the first major motion picture to have a scene which was intentionally created to induce ASMR.
The movie is about the 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell). This was a memorable match because it was a professional male tennis star playing against a professional female tennis star.
The ASMR-inspired scene involves Emma Stone at a hair salon, getting a haircut from a soon-to-be romantic interest. The cameras and microphones focus on copious hair touching, soft hand movements, light whispers, gentle voices, and hypnotic scissor-snipping.
The intimacy of the task and the intimacy of the interaction are well conveyed to the viewer.
One of the directors, Valerie Faris, explains their preparation and intent in a NY Times interview:
“We listened to a lot of A.S.M.R. recordings. It’s autonomous sensory meridian response, and it’s when people talk in a certain tone cutting your hair. Or dental hygienists sometimes have the same effect on people.
But it’s a certain quality of a voice that creates a relaxation and sort of tingling.
So we wanted to try to recreate that sensation for the audience, partly by the way Andrea was talking to her, but then also seeing her run her fingers through Billie Jean’s hair.”
Another interview with the directors by Kyle Buchanan of Vulture.com shares more insight of the directors’ motives and methods:
“When I talked to Battle of the Sexes directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, I wanted to know how they’d pulled off such a neat trick: The most exciting scene in their film is also, oddly, the most soothing. Dayton laughed, and asked, “Are you familiar with ASMR?”
That’s short for “autonomous sensory meridian response,” but it’s best known to internet devotees as the phenomenon behind all those YouTube videos where someone speaks in a voice that can barely be heard or makes sounds so soft that they lull the listener into what’s described as a “low-grade euphoria.”
With the hairstyling scene in Battle of the Sexes, then, Dayton wondered, “Could you create an ASMR moment in a movie theater?”
The two directors sat down with their sound-design team to carefully record the most calming salon noises known to man or woman: a brush of hair, a caress of fingers on skin, a gentle directive to turn one’s head this way or that.
“We worked a long time just to get the sound right, to bring you into a sensual realm,” said Faris.
“The feeling of having your hair brushed or somebody running their fingers through your hair and talking to you in that way, it’s easy to imagine being seduced by that,” said Dayton, who added, “And we have it in surround sound, if you’re in the right theater.””
View the scene:
Read more about the scene:
Would you be interested in a feature-length movie in which every scene is ASMR-inspired? If so, then read the following:
Read more about celebrities creating, experiencing, or discussing ASMR:
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This post brought to you by ASMR University. A site with the mission of increasing the awareness, understanding, and research of the Art and Science of Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response.