As mentioned earlier, dialogue can also yield results beyond the literal content of the words. In Richard Lester's A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966), when Sudellus (Zero Mostel) speaks loudly and his master's son, Hero, whispers softly in response, the shift in tone immediately tells us something about each character. The same is true of Orson Welles's Citizen Kane (1941). When Kane and Leland speak, the tone, pitch, and loudness variations tell us about their relationship and about the power of each. When HAL speaks in a crisp, articulated voice in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), there is a distinct difference from the low, flat tones of the astronauts.
Changes in the tone, pitch, and timbre of one character's dialogue introduce the idea that something has changed. They can also foreshadow change for that character. Variations in dialogue between characters can be used to reveal their differences. In each case, the changes introduce a new idea into the scene.
When Robert Altman modulated the voices of many of his characters in Nashville (1975), he used tone, timbre, pitch, clarity, and sound space to identify the characters, indicate their current moods, signal changes in mood, and create a sense of each character at a particular moment. Because Altman often overlaps and crowds his dialogue tracks, the audience must listen carefully to his films as well as watch them. Cues about how to feel at a particular instant can come from the visual or the sound. Altman is one of the most important directors when it comes to the use of dialogue sound tracks to introduce ideas. Because he is less interested in the words themselves, the other characteristics of the dialogue—the loudness, pitch, and so on—become all the more telling.
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