The Sound Track

The film sound track is commonly divided into three subsets musical scoring, sound effects, and dialogue. Film music has been the focus of numerous thorough studies tracing its historical development and its formal properties. What concerns us here is a smaller topic, the ways in which music interacts with the film's dialogue. To begin with the rather unique case of musicals musical numbers could be thought of as extensions of the dialogue, set pieces where the incipient patterning, repetition,...

Some Points Toward A Historical Perspective

For the most part, this study deals with formal generalizations rather than tracing a history of the development of film dialogue. Yet I do not mean to imply that film dialogue is a static entity or that it exists in a timeless void. Industrial, technological, and social changes have all affected the ways in which films have their characters speak. First of all, the English language has itself changed enormously over the decades of the sound film. Tom Shachtman argues, We have to recognize that...

Creation Of The Diegesis And Anchorage Of Identities

In Shakespeare's As You Like It 2.4, Rosalind, Celia, and Touchstone enter a vacant stage. However, all it takes is Rosalind's assertion, Well, this is the forest of Arden, for the audience to understand that the travelers have reached their destination a thicket of noble trees, dappled sun, and birdsong bursts from these seven words. On the most basic level, dialogue is responsible for creating the theatrical diegesis, the fictional world of the narrative. Ericka FisherLichte has pointed out...

The Nature Of Film Dialogue

Eavesdropping is a loaded term, implying that the filmgoer is doing something surreptitious, something that gives him or her secret power and or sexual pleasure. In a paper given at a recent conference, The Narrative Functions of the Ecouteur, Elisabeth Weis traces the psychoanalytic context of eavesdropping, noting that Freud placed great stress on the child's overhearing its parents making love, and that he thought such experiences crucial to the child's sexual development. Weis continues,...

Falling On Deaf Ears

Since the late 1970s, when the field of cinema studies rediscovered the sound track, numerous productive studies have been published on sound technology, film music, sound effects, and sound theory. With notable exceptions,3 most of this scholarship has only minimally addressed the most important aspect of film sound namely, the dialogue. Although what the characters say, exactly how they say it, and how the dialogue is integrated with the rest of the cinematic techniques are crucial to our...

The Functions of Dialogue in Narrative Film

The first questions to be asked when analyzing a segment of film dialogue may be Why are these lines here or What purpose do they serve in the text as a whole Such inquiries might imply that one is attempting to uncover the intentions of the screenwriters and director, and, indeed, a large degree of overlap might be anticipated between what the filmmakers consciously had in mind and the ultimate effects of dialogue. Some overlap, but not total for through accidents (psychological or practical)...

T

Ellen notices that Heathcliff has left. ever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same. And Linton's is as different as frost from fire. My one thought in living is Heathcliff. Ellen, I am Heathcliff. Everything he's suffered, I've suffered. The little happiness he's ever known, I've had, too. Oh Ellen, if everything in the world died and Heathcliff remained, life would still be full for me. Cathy has come to know her heart, but it is too late. Hearing only her...

Exploitation Of The Resources Of Language

This category is subdivided into four sections. The unifying concept is that the cinematic text defies the strictures of only using language minimally and has chosen to include, perhaps even to revel in, unnecessary verbal embroidery. Firstly, language is often used poetically. Rouben Mamoulian's Love Me Tonight 1932 foregrounds rhyming dialogue, and Abraham Polonsky's Force of Evil 1948 approaches blank verse. David Mamet's screenplays are famous for the way in which the dialogue falls into a...

Adherence To Expectations Concerning Realism

We know that realism is a cultural construct, that when a text is referred to as realistic, one is actually saying that it adheres to a complex code of what a culture at a given time agrees to accept as plausible, everyday, authentic. These conventions change through history what strikes one generation as incredibly realistic may strike another as highly mannered. Although mainstream American filmmaking rarely has documentary or even neorealist ambitions, our movies have traditionally aimed...

Dialogue And Genre

In 1955, Harvey Purvis published a humorous piece in Films in Review entitled Sure Fire Dialogue. The article consists of a verbal tour through twenty-two film genres mysteries And just where were you when all this was taking place, Jamieson . . . You mean to seriously suggest that the dead man stabbed himself and then proceeded to wipe the dagger clean of blood stains No, no, Sergeant Dugan, I'm afraid you'll have to do better than that I see. Then that makes you sole heir to this vast estate...

What Is At Stake

This study focuses on English-language narrative cinema, primarily American but including a few British films. I suspect that many of my findings are applicable to all narrative features, but I will not make generalizations about other national cinemas without knowing the language as well as a native speaker. Not the least of the deleterious consequences of the traditional disregard of dialogue's importance is that film scholars have cavalierly assumed they could analyze films in languages they...

Character Revelation

A character's personality in a film is seldom something given in a single shot, writes Richard Dyer. Rather it has to be built up, by film-makers and audience alike, across the whole film. A character is a construct from the very many different signs deployed by a film.14 Even those who seek to keep dialogue in its place acknowledge its usefulness in characterization. Great dialogue flashes the light on characters as lightning illumines the dark earth in flashes, Rachel Crothers says. It...

Conversational Interaction

How much time one character spends hogging the floor is only one of a host of verbal variables indicating the flux of relationships between cinematic characters. Linguists have untangled the unconscious rules governing our everyday conversations and the ramifications of breaking these rules. Applying their insights to film dialogue scenes tells us whether characters are on the same wavelength, whether one is in a superior position, whether they are polite, whether they are even listening to...

The Quantity Of Dialogue

The question of quantity is complicated, because it encompasses at least two distinct issues first, the use of scenes or sequences devoid of character speech, and second, when characters are talking, how much does each say in one gulp In linguistic terms, how long a turn does each take No necessary correlation exists between these two parameters. A film that includes long stretches of silent pantomime may, in the next scene, also allow its characters to be loqua cious. Moreover, a film that...

Structural and Stylistic Variables

What variables are manipulated in the writing of film dialogue, and what are the ramifications narrative, aesthetic, ideological of these choices In other words, what factors account for the distinct flavors of film dialogue What, precisely, makes the dialogue of Casablanca so different from that of Citizen Kane The variables discussed below are obviously not of the same genus. Some concern the habits of individual speakers, others the interaction between characters some relate to the structure...