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June 1995, Week 3


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Donald Larsson <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 14 Jun 1995 09:07:41 -0600
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Gloria Monti inquires:
" Marion Crane in the car after she stole the $40,000.  She hears
voices.  How would you define that sound?  Internal diegetic?  It comes
from her thinking process, though it's not her own voice.  She is
reproducing the reactions to her stealing on Friday which will probably
occur on Monday, when the "crime" will be discovered."
Yes--I'd call it internal diegetic, but that's based on a number of cues that
the film has supplied to indicate her growing sense of guilt over the theft.
Thus, she imagines what will occur when the theft is discovered.  If those
previous cues in the narrative and the visuals had not been provided, the
soundover would be (at least) ambiguous.  In both cases, the sound is
*non-simultaneous* (or *displaced*) diegetic--an audio flashforward, as it
were, but the film's cues link it as you say to Marion's thought processes in
the film.  Without those cues, we would need some way of confirming that the
"flashforward" was actually and correctly predicting a future event.
This is one of the many ways in which sound editors--among all the others
involved in production--can mess with our minds.
For an analogous set of scenes, see (and hear) Coppola's THE CONVERSATION.  All
the repetitions of the conversation recorded by Harry Caul/Gene Hackman in the
first 1 1/2 hours or so of the film are external diegetic--cued by the playing
of the tapes Harry has assembled.  After he loses the tapes, we still hear lines
from the conversation, but now they are cued as coming from Harry's own guilt-
stricken memory.  See especially the scene at the motel, where he bugs the room
next door and external, offscreen voices (from next door) mingle with his
memories of the voices on the tape.  This all leads to a final repetition of
several lines at the very end, which now take on a new significance, including
the *alteration* (by Harry's new knowledge) of one line: "He'd *kill* us if
he got the chance" now becomes "He'd kill *us* if he got the chance."
Needless to say, the relevance of these audio cues isn't easily apparent on a
single viewing (or even after several), which has led a number of commentators
to remark that Coppola is engaging in a display of epistemological uncertainty,
not unlike Antonioni in BLOWUP--but he's not.  (At least, I don't think so!)
Don Larsson, Mankato State U (MN)
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