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Old 09-04-2011, 02:14 PM
 
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Originally Posted by StarlaJane View Post
The narrator in Little Children is usually referred to as "heterodiegetic" narration in literature: "hetero" meaning "other" and "diegetic" referring to the diegesis or "fictional world created by the narration." When the narrator is also a charactor (Nick Caraway in The Great Gatsby, for example), the narration is referred to as homodiegetic.

In film, the situation can be a little more complex: you can have a heterodiegetic narrator (or, simply, an "external" narrator, a.k.a a voice-over) but there is also the meganarration of the direction, i.e. the scenes that the director chooses to allow us to see as well as how those scenes are portrayed, which is also narration, albeit implicit.

There is another film that I will mention, Amelie, in which I think the voice-over is extremely well done and often leads from explicit (i.e., v.o.) narration to implicit narration (our viewing of the peoples' lives introduced by the v.o.).

Unreliable narration can take many forms but the best example in film, I think, is Verbal Kent in The Usual Suspects, another great example of v.o. and narration that transitions seemlessly between explicit to implicit.

I haven't read Little Children, but I wonder if the narration in the film is taken directly from the text, as in many narrations in films based on novels.

I'm at a loss to comment on Suspects or Amelie, as I haven't seen them.
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Old 09-04-2011, 02:38 PM
 
Location: Massachusetts
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Originally Posted by Mr. Humble View Post
I haven't read Little Children, but I wonder if the narration in the film is taken directly from the text, as in many narrations in films based on novels.

I'm at a loss to comment on Suspects or Amelie, as I haven't seen them.
*GASP* Probably two of the best films ever made, although I think that most people prefer The Usual Suspects b/c it is so ingenious. Amelie is definitely a feel-good film, and is also subtitled (the original is in French), which some people don't care for.

I never read the novel on which Little Children is based; in fact, I didn't even know that it was based on a novel.

But, yes, the majority of v.o.'s in film stem from the fact that the film is based on a book, which is sort of ironic as you would think that film would be able to capture that narrative essence of a book even better than the book b/c it actually has so many more tools at its disposal, the ability to literally visualize being one of them. But I guess that is what makes each genre so unique and invaluable: there are just some things that books can do that film cannot and vice-versa.

And if you really want to get complicated re: narration and v.o.'s, start thinking (and asking questions) about comic books!
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Old 09-04-2011, 02:45 PM
 
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Originally Posted by StarlaJane View Post
*GASP* Probably two of the best films ever made, although I think that most people prefer The Usual Suspects b/c it is so ingenious. Amelie is definitely a feel-good film, and is also subtitled (the original is in French), which some people don't care for.

I never read the novel on which Little Children is based; in fact, I didn't even know that it was based on a novel.

But, yes, the majority of v.o.'s in film stem from the fact that the film is based on a book, which is sort of ironic as you would think that film would be able to capture that narrative essence of a book even better than the book b/c it actually has so many more tools at its disposal, the ability to literally visualize being one of them. But I guess that is what makes each genre so unique and invaluable: there are just some things that books can do that film cannot and vice-versa.

And if you really want to get complicated re: narration and v.o.'s, start thinking (and asking questions) about comic books!
I think what a novel can do much better than a movie is communicate the thoughts of a character, much more of the why than just the what. So if a novel is highly dependent on that 'thread' than you will surely miss it in a movie based on that book.

You seem to have a real take on this stuff, Jane, and I'm honestly trying to learn about this; can you think of a few other movies where narration just does not work? Thanks...
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Old 09-04-2011, 03:28 PM
 
Location: Massachusetts
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Originally Posted by Mr. Humble View Post
I think what a novel can do much better than a movie is communicate the thoughts of a character, much more of the why than just the what. So if a novel is highly dependent on that 'thread' than you will surely miss it in a movie based on that book.

You seem to have a real take on this stuff, Jane, and I'm honestly trying to learn about this; can you think of a few other movies where narration just does not work? Thanks...
Unfortunately, I seem to be able to only think of films in which is really does work, probably b/c filmmakers have become so unbelievably innovative wrt narration; Quentin Tarantino does some really interesting stuff with unreliable narration, especially in Jackie Brown (never read the book on which it is based) and Kill Bill.

However, *racks brain* now that you mention it, a few examples in which v.o doesn't work or is unnecessary are probably films that retell fairy tales, especially Disney cartoon films: many (if not all) of them open with a storyteller reading the first few lines of the tale or setting the stage, so to speak, then transitioning into the visual story. I think that the better films don't do this, they find a way to start without referring back to the tale.

Just look at the opening to Cinderella, especially when compared to the opening of The Jungle Book: the v.o. in the former is there to replace the story; it could just as easily have been told via a regular film storyline, resulting in a longer film. In the latter, the v.o is necessary b/c it provides valuable info re: the narrator's perspective that would be missing w/o a v.o. (i.e. the distinct animal perspective).

Another film to consider would be Titanic, which opens with an old Rose looking back and narrating, as an older woman, her first encounter with the ship as a younger woman. You could really question not only whether the voice-over was necessary but the entire sub-plot of the old woman (and her daughter and the crew looking for the Heart of the Ocean) looking back and the transition from explicit to implicit narration. While it certainly added an interesting dimension to the film, it really wasn't necessary: most people remember the implicit narration and storyline on the ship rather than the old woman on the ship with the crew looking for treasure.

Not super examples but the only ones I can really think of at the moment. It's pretty difficult to remember instances in which I disliked v.o. b/c I tend to remember the ones I like (and forget the ones I don't like)--talk about your unreliable narration
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Old 09-04-2011, 03:44 PM
 
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Originally Posted by StarlaJane View Post
Unfortunately, I seem to be able to only think of films in which is really does work, probably b/c filmmakers have become so unbelievably innovative wrt narration; Quentin Tarantino does some really interesting stuff with unreliable narration, especially in Jackie Brown (never read the book on which it is based) and Kill Bill.

However, *racks brain* now that you mention it, a few examples in which v.o doesn't work or is unnecessary are probably films that retell fairy tales, especially Disney cartoon films: many (if not all) of them open with a storyteller reading the first few lines of the tale or setting the stage, so to speak, then transitioning into the visual story. I think that the better films don't do this, they find a way to start without referring back to the tale.

Just look at the opening to Cinderella, especially when compared to the opening of The Jungle Book: the v.o. in the former is there to replace the story; it could just as easily have been told via a regular film storyline, resulting in a longer film. In the latter, the v.o is necessary b/c it provides valuable info re: the narrator's perspective that would be missing w/o a v.o. (i.e. the distinct animal perspective).

Another film to consider would be Titanic, which opens with an old Rose looking back and narrating, as an older woman, her first encounter with the ship as a younger woman. You could really question not only whether the voice-over was necessary but the entire sub-plot of the old woman (and her daughter and the crew looking for the Heart of the Ocean) looking back and the transition from explicit to implicit narration. While it certainly added an interesting dimension to the film, it really wasn't necessary: most people remember the implicit narration and storyline on the ship rather than the old woman on the ship with the crew looking for treasure.

Not super examples but the only ones I can really think of at the moment. It's pretty difficult to remember instances in which I disliked v.o. b/c I tend to remember the ones I like (and forget the ones I don't like)--talk about your unreliable narration
Ha, right.. you know, it could be that like a musical score a good narration can't save a bad movie, but a bad narration can kill a good one.. I know there have been times when I'm watching a pretty good movie and I think, 'that bleepin' narration is really a distraction, but like you I guess I tend to employ a selective memory as well. Makes for a much happier perspective.

Thank you, Jane.. I'm kind of wrestling with this, but not really. The truth is, I know it, both good and bad when I hear it. When it stops you, when it breaks the dream, I think that's a good indication of a bad one. Organic is a word that keeps popping up, like it does in other art forms, right?
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Old 09-04-2011, 04:03 PM
 
Location: Massachusetts
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Originally Posted by Mr. Humble View Post
Ha, right.. you know, it could be that like a musical score a good narration can't save a bad movie, but a bad narration can kill a good one.. I know there have been times when I'm watching a pretty good movie and I think, 'that bleepin' narration is really a distraction, but like you I guess I tend to employ a selective memory as well. Makes for a much happier perspective.

Thank you, Jane.. I'm kind of wrestling with this, but not really. The truth is, I know it, both good and bad when I hear it. When it stops you, when it breaks the dream, I think that's a good indication of a bad one. Organic is a word that keeps popping up, like it does in other art forms, right?
Absolutely, as in narration that you don't really notice b/c it seems a natural or essential part of the story, which was why I thought of "unnecessary" rather than "bad": I think that any film that uses unnecessary v.o.'s is employing them as a crutch; Disney's Cinderella is a good example of that.

Then you have Amelie in which the v.o. is rather unnecessary but is so funny and charming that you would hate to see it go. There is also an interesting scene in that film in which the title character appears to interact with the v.o. narrator as well as the spectator, which is so absurdly funny that it is hard not to giggle. Ingenious but far cuter than the more serious and sinister The Usual Suspects.

But, again, most of the films that I think of use v.o.'s very well and to good effect. There is nothing like a distinctive voice that is intonating well and thereby adding a more charming (and usually humorous) tone to the live action story.
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Old 09-04-2011, 04:10 PM
 
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Originally Posted by StarlaJane View Post
Absolutely, as in narration that you don't really notice b/c it seems a natural or essential part of the story, which was why I thought of "unnecessary" rather than "bad": I think that any film that uses unnecessary v.o.'s is employing them as a crutch; Disney's Cinderella is a good example of that.

Then you have Amelie in which the v.o. is rather unnecessary but is so funny and charming that you would hate to see it go. There is also an interesting scene in that film in which the title character appears to interact with the v.o. narrator as well as the spectator, which is so absurdly funny that it is hard not to giggle. Ingenious but far cuter than the more serious and sinister The Usual Suspects.

But, again, most of the films that I think of use v.o.'s very well and to good effect. There is nothing like a distinctive voice that is intonating well and thereby adding a more charming (and usually humorous) tone to the live action story.
I mean, that's interesting though, isn't it? Because I think that what you're saying is there are some times when although a V.O. may not actually be necessary, it can nevertheless end up to be indispensable if used in a creative way. A lot of possibilities with this..
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Old 09-04-2011, 04:55 PM
 
Location: Massachusetts
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Originally Posted by Mr. Humble View Post
I mean, that's interesting though, isn't it? Because I think that what you're saying is there are some times when although a V.O. may not actually be necessary, it can nevertheless end up to be indispensable if used in a creative way. A lot of possibilities with this..
Absolutely. Amelie is a great example of this; watch the film and you'll see what I'm talking about. The "couples having orgasms" scene is the one in which Amelie appears to work in conjunction with the voice-over narrator while interacting with the audience: it's cinematic genius.

Also, Stand By Me: one could easily have filmed the scene in the junkyard as it was, without the v.o., but it is so much better with the v.o., especially b/c you have Richard Dreyfuss doing it and, especially, b/c he is intonating in all of the right spots. Imagine the scene without this gem of a v.o.:

"Now, what he said was, 'Chopper, sick!' But what I heard was, 'Chopper, sick balls!" And then you have the scene of the kid hauling ass through the junkyard with the dog chasing after him. It's much funnier with the v.o.
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Old 09-04-2011, 05:10 PM
 
2,179 posts, read 2,816,232 times
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Originally Posted by StarlaJane View Post
Absolutely. Amelie is a great example of this; watch the film and you'll see what I'm talking about. The "couples having orgasms" scene is the one in which Amelie appears to work in conjunction with the voice-over narrator while interacting with the audience: it's cinematic genius.

Also, Stand By Me: one could easily have filmed the scene in the junkyard as it was, without the v.o., but it is so much better with the v.o., especially b/c you have Richard Dreyfuss doing it and, especially, b/c he is intonating in all of the right spots. Imagine the scene without this gem of a v.o.:

"Now, what he said was, "Chopper, sick!" But what I heard was, "Chopper, sick balls!" And then you have the scene of the kid hauling ass through the junkyard with the dog chasing after him. It's much funnier with the v.o.
Right, and that's something that couldn't have been communicated otherwise.

Maybe people get into trouble when they don't understand a narrative's limitations and or its possibilities either.


Le Fabuleux Destin'd Amelie Poulain: How many orgasms? - YouTube

Dreyfus narration starts 40 seconds in...


Stand By Me - Junk Yard - Chopper! - YouTube

This one from Goodfellas is an unnecessary narrative too.. but it works.


Goodfellas - Dinner in Prison - YouTube
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Old 09-04-2011, 08:01 PM
 
Location: Massachusetts
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I can't imagine Goodfellas without the v.o. b/c there's so much info that would have been missing.
One thing that v.o.'s do very well is capture nuance, which is why they are often indispensable to a film.

And that clip from Stand By Me is probably my all-time favorite v.o.: it is done very well in conjunction with the visual scenes, and the timing is just perfect. Thanks for posting them.
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