Thursday, March 5, 2009

Dialogue/Narration over Sequences

What strikes me about this question is its relation to some of the inquiries made in Question 3 during the last paper assignment. Narration over a sequence of shots presents an overall, omniscient-feeling thread that ties them together. Take the beginning of Sunset Boulevard for example: the main character narrates across the first few shots, giving us the sense that he is the storyteller--he's the one that knows everything about what is going to take place. In this faceless voice, we see power and clear knowledge. Another movie that does this well is The Shawshank Redemption, the story being narrated throughout by Morgan Freeman's character. What he brings to the sequences that he narrates is a wise, seasoned voice that we come to know as the voice that knows the prison too well. When this voice is given to Freeman's character of Robbins', we see a clear shift of knowledge of omniscience. While Robbins' character is new and experiences the unknown of prison, Freeman's character knows everything--and this narration speaks well of it.

In terms of dialogue, it gets tricky, as the presence of dialogue happening between cuts seems to separate the visual from aural--forcing the spectator to match them correctly. When the two characters are not on screen at the time, the spectator is forced to now perceive two pictures--a dialogue and the action being presented on the screen. Unless I've misunderstood the question--and I wouldn't doubt it--the practice of dialogue flowing between cuts is quite common in a lot of different scenes of movies: wouldn't it just be a regurgitation of shot/reverse shot or different shots of the same conversation. Alternatively, the question could be referring to dialogue presented as an additive, in which case my previous observation stands. Take if you will one of the Ocean movies--Ocean's Eleven/Ocean's Twelve/Ocean's Thirteen--I can't pick out a certain scene, but you'll come across the characters running through a plan in their heads, and while they have a dialogue about it, the screen will cut to different facets of the plan--sneaking into corridors as Clooney's character may remark about how to get into the casino/museum/etc. In this way, the dialogue has the same effect as the narration--empowering the voice and giving it an authority over the visual experience.

That's my two cents--and just to also clarify on the "death" of the long take--is somewhat true, as it seems to have shifted into a more gimmick style of shooting, however much I delight in the scenes in Cloverfield and Children of Men when long takes are utilized. Cloverfield itself--acting as many long takes, had a distinct feel even outside of the shaky camcorder style used: the method of chronicling the ever-intensifying and ever-constant action on screen reflected well on the movie--and it complied with Metz's observation about the interruption of action that other techniques like montage could have enabled. Whether the film is better for it, one can wonder, but its goal seems to be a heavily consistent stream of drama, and it succeeds in that very well.

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