This sequence of films suggests different ways in which the story gets to be told, and how the voice of the narrator is registered.



1. The standard voice over narrative, Barry Lyndon ,directed by Stanley Kubrick, 1975; what tone of voice is used; how does the voice coordinate with the image; why the freeze frame ?

2. The hidden voice; Feed ,1991 a documentary on politicians caught unaware; the    voice in the head; sometimes this can be the voice of the impetuous, ie Imp of the Perverse (see story by Edgar Allan Poe); sometimes it can be a whisper stage off (the prompter) and other variants. Here the Democratic candidates for nomination have a    voice in their ear. When are they noticing the spectator ? What are they smiling at ?

3. Hellzapoppin' , directed by H.C.Potter,    US 1941, a cinema shows a film and the projectionist complains    about being an actor, he shows a film and the chorus girls slide    to Hell. The two male leads arrive by taxi which is destroyed by the hellish breath of one of them. Having enjoyed the effect he asks the asks the viewer's permission to ask projectionist (his cousin) to rewind the sequence. It does so and the principlas    sprint off to reveal the whole experience is being filmed. The complex narrative within a narrative. What other visual devices can you think of to show a story within a story ? How would you represent this diagrammatically ?

4. Chuck Jones, Duck Amuck the figure (Daffy Duck) against the ever-changing ground, and the animated    character (Bugs) as animator (physician heal thyself). The effect of the arbitrary changes in background first seen in Buster Keaton's Sherlock Junior. 1924.

5. Street Scene directed by Andy Aaron,1991, the consistent and coherent narrative imposed (post-sinc) on    the action; the imperial command of the film director. The    collapse of the building rendered deliberate.

These sequences explore one area of the subject guide. Devise your own examples in art. literature and design to illustrate the individual points.



Voice 1; The Commentator, the newsreel, Henry Luce's newsreel, The    March of Time .

Voice 2; Citizen Kane, the commentator in the pastiche newsreel, Welles, 1941

Voice 3; The Complete Citizen Kane documentary 1991, the actor as the    audience's repres.

Voice 4; The Day the Dream Died , 1988 (Dispatches), the professional front man.

Voice 5; True Stories , David Byrne talks to camera 1986.

Voice 6; Horse Feathers , the Marx Brothers, 1932

Voice 6; Taxi Driver ,Travis Bickle, lonely psychopath, Martin Scorcese,    1976

Voice 7; Kind Hearts and Coronets , directed by Robert Hamer, the homicidal gentleman.Irony.

Voice 8; Days of Heaven, Malik, 1979, silent narrative, the subjective voice over

Voice 9; Raising    Arizona, the Coen brothers, 1987, the comic discrepancies sound and vision.

Voice 10; Badlands , Malick, 1983, cross referencing the voice over and the images seen.

Voice 11; Barry Lyndon, directed by Stanley Kubrick, 1982, ironic distaste of Michael Hordern.

Voice 12; The Wizard of Oz ,directed by Victor Fleming, the Voice over exposed.

Voice 13; The    Birds, Hitchock, 1963, a celebrated narrative montage with    privileged position.

Voice 14; The Bird with the Crystal Plumage ,dir. Dario Argento, the director imposes a voice



1. To get you all to re-think the possibilities when words (and in particular sound) coexist with imagery

2. To contemplate what narrative elements are  added to/ subtracted from the image with the addition of  sound.

"The value of silence in art is its stimulation to the imagination, and the imaginative quality is art's highest appeal. The really excellent motion picture, the really great photoplay, are never mere photography. Continually those cause the beholder to hear things which they suggest - the murmurs of a summer night, the pounding of the surf, the sigh of the wind in the trees, the babel of the crowded streets, the whisperings of love." James Quirk in Photoplay, May 1921. Quoted Kevin Brownlow, The Parade's Gone By, op cit beneath.

"In addition to the traditional piano player, each theatre in Saragossa was equipped with its explicador , or narrator, who stood next to the screen and 'explained' the action to the audience. "Count Hugo sees his wife go by on the arm of another man ", he would declaim, "And now ladies and gentlemen, you will see how he opens the drawer of his desk and takes out a revolver to assassinate his unfaithful wife ! " It's hard to imagine today, but when the cinema was in its infancy, it was such a new and unusual narrative form that most spectators had difficulty understanding what was happening. Now we're used to film language, the elements of montage, to both simultaneous and successive action, to flashbacks, that our comprehension is automatic; but in the early years, the public had a hard time deciphering the new pictorial grammar. They needed an explicador to guide them from scene to scene." Luis Bunuel, My Last Breath Flamingo London 1985

"...Ford and I said 'They talk too much', and we cut down the dialogue on every scene we made. We cut lines out because actors just loved it when they got a bunch of lines and [John] Ford and I didn't think they were good. Also when you leave the dialogue out and make visual stuff, the visual stuff has so much more impact because you hadn't used it before." Howard Hawks, from Joseph McBride, Hawks on Hawks , Univ. of Calif.Press 1982.

"Most of the latest sound films are characterised by exceedingly slow development of subject and dialogue, full of interminable pauses. Many directors are developing a talkie style that involves the use of explanatory words for matters that should be conceived visually... directors hesitate to make experiments with sound, and particularly hesitate to apply montage to the sound strip...."Pudovkin, Film Technique , op.cit. beneath p.166/7.

"... the microphone like the camera can do better things rather than merely reproduce, and that at the cutting bench and the re-recording bench as many new possibilities open out before sound film as once opened out before the cutting bench of silence." John Grierson (1934), in, Creative Use of Sound , Hardy op.cit. beneath p.158

"In the days of Steamboat Willie [1928] it was picture first then we used to put the sound on afterwards... we used to have to run the cartoons, we'd have the fellows with the sound effects, we'd have the people with the voices , we'd have the orchestra going, and everybody had to synchronise... keep that thing right on the button... and they would always fit" Disney interview in Jay Leyda, Film Makers Speak, Da Capo NY 1984.


Clarence Nash (left as Donald Duck) and Pinto Colveg (right as Goofy) in a Disney film as cartoon voices, November 1956.


Punch , May 8th 1929, p. 519, 18 x 24cms


TRUFFAUT"In the final era of silent films, the great film makers - in fact, almost the whole of production - had reached something near perfection. The introduction of sound, in a way jeopardised that perfection. ... mediocrity came back into its own with the advent of sound." HITCHCOCK"the motion picture overnight assumed a theatrical form. The mobility of the camera didn't alter this fact.. One result of this is the loss of cinematic style, and another is a loss of fantasy." Donald Spoto of Blackmail, " Not content simply to record dialogue, Hitchcock experimented with sound to create and sustain in an audience the same dissociation a character feels." see Hitchcock by Truffaut, Paladin 1986 and Spoto, The Life of AH , Collins L 1983.

"It would have been more logical if silent pictures had grown out of the talkie instead of the other way round." Mary Pickford.








Asynchronism ; images and sound in counterpoint.

Synchronism ; sound coordinated with imagery.

Overlap Dialogue ; sound used beyond its directly related images.

Sound Perspective ; the appropriate quality of sound to image.

Sound Track ; the track on the side of the film bearing the recorded sounds.

Voice Over, the voice of the Narrator over the Visuals.

Sound Track, narrow strip along the frames of the film where recorded sound is    registered in the form of a light trace.

Wild Track , a track recorded separately from the film which may be combined with    the film eventually.

Effects Track ; sound track of sound effects other than speech and music.

Actual Sound ; sound the source of which an be viewed on the screen. The revrse of commentative sound.

Post-synchronisation , generating and recording sound after the picture has been shot.



Kevin Brownlow, The Parade's Gone By , Columbus London 1989; The history of world cinema up to the advent of Sound.

Bordwell, Staiger and Thompson, The Classical Hollywood Cinema , Routledge, London 1988. Modes    of Production. Film Style and Technology. Definitive and much    recommended.

K.Reisz, The Technique of Film Editing , Focal Press London & NY. 1959 (see The Documentary and the Use of    Sound).

Joseph McBride, Film Makers on Film Making , The American    Film Institute, Houghton Mifflin Boston 1983, talk by Jerry Goldsmith on the composition of muisc for films(Chinatown etc).

Rick Altman, The    American Film Musical, Indiana Univ Press/BFI, 1987; p.107ff Narrative Strategies.

Irene Kahn Akins, Source Music in Motion Pictures, Assoc.Univ.Press London 1983

Forsyth Hardy, Grierson on Documentary, Faber and    Faber London 1966, "Creative Use of Sound."

V.I.Pudovkin, Film    Technique, Five Essays and Two Addresses , trans. V. Montagu, Newnes London 1933(1929) ; Stanley    Kubrick says this book is all a maker of films needs. See also    Taylor and Christie, The Film Factory, Harvard Univ.Press Harvard    1988 quotes 1928, Messman "Sound Film", 1929; Pudovkin, "On the    Principal of Sound in Film"; and "Conversation on Sound Film".    1930, Shklovsky "Sound as a Semantic Sound".




The Brazilian Story Teller

Into the Woods


Steamboat Willie ; Volere Volare

Singing in the Rain.


Listen to Britain

Barry Lyndon.

Blow Out

The Conversation





1901 Professor Ruhmer experiments with recorded sound waves.

1906 Emil Lauste patents optical sound track.

1907 talking fims being made for Pathe. Early experiments with pneumatic sound boxes. Not just a    gramophone.

1919 H.Grindell Matthews (with Kingston & Lynes) developed a sound recording camera in the UK. Tobis Klang Film developed in Germany.

1921 Charles Hoxie vibrating mirror type optical recorder, sound track printed to strip.

1923, The Phonofilm system demonstrated   

1924 sound films released of President Harding's speech. Taken up by Fox.

1926 Vitaphone formed by Warner's ; harsh early demonstrations.

1927 March, the launch of The Jazz Singer. Oct.first sound newsreels.