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June 1995, Week 2


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Donald Larsson <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 8 Jun 1995 08:43:52 -0600
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Gloria Monti comments:
" . . . It is very important to distinguish between different
kinds of diegetic sound.  Onscreen diegetic: when the source of sound is
visible within the frame & offscreen diegetic: when the source of sound
is not visible but still belongs to the story.
        Last, let me mention internal diegetic sound: when the source of
the sound belongs to the mind of a character & external diegetic sound: I
am quoting Bordwell&Thompson, because their definition was never too
clear to me--"that which we as spectators take to have a physical source
in the scene." (310)  Maybe they simply mean onscreen diegetic sound?  An
example of that does not come to mind easily."
Nope--External diegetic sound isn't necessarily onscreen--as your first
paragraph indicates, external diegetic can also be (and often is) offscreen.
Clear examples would be hearing a character's voice and knowing that the
character is in the room but not seeing him or her.  A common, but easily
overlooked, example is in simple "ambient" background noise--birds chirping,
planes flying, cars on the street and so forth, which we usually miss because
we take them for granted.  (But consider the careful control of such sounds
in a film like THE FRENCH LIEUTENANT'S WOMAN, where the different types of
background noise mark the setting of Victorian or contemporary England.)
Internal diegetic sound, on the other hand, is access to a character's
as in Olivier's soliloquy's in HAMLET and HENRY IV (compare to the use of
external diegetic for same speeches in the Zefferelli and Branagh versions of
the same plays).  Somewhat less clearly, sound effects or music may be cued
as a character's memory or fantasizing of such sounds--THE CONVERSATION (in
the last half-hour) is a case in point.  But, as Bordwell and Thompson point
out, these categories can overlap or shift or be ambiguous as they are
perceived by the audience (see p. 318 in FILM ART).
Don Larsson, Mankato State U (MN)
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