I wrote about voice-over narrators in films for the Telegraph website. Here’s the beginning of the piece:
The most irritating thing about The Great Gatsby (which I mostly enjoyed) was Tobey Maguire’s voice-over. “He had the kind of smile that seemed to believe you, and understand you as you wanted to be believed and understood,” says Tobey over a shot of Leonardo DiCaprio giving us exactly that kind of smile. And then, later, “Gatsby looked in that moment as if he had killed a man,” Tobey says over an image of DiCaprio looking – yes! – exactly like someone who had killed a man.
As the popular screenwriting slogan has it, “Show – don’t tell.” Just because the story is told from one character’s point of view doesn’t mean you have to hear that character’s voice blathering in your ear all the time – look at Chinatown. Voice-over narration is pointless when it’s adding nothing to what we can already see for ourselves, but it does have its uses.
To read more, please click on the picture of Leonardo DiCaprio above to be transported by the magic of the internet to the Telegraph website.
Or stick around here to watch a couple of clips we couldn’t squeeze into the article.
Here’s Dick Powell as Philip Marlowe explaining everything to the cops in Murder, My Sweet:
And Jean-Luc Godard chipping in with what the characters are thinking while they’re dancing the Madison in Bande à part:
And Nicolas Cage sitting in at a storytelling seminar in Adaptation (dank je wel Meneer Westhoff):