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November 1996, Week 3


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
C Harris <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 15 Nov 1996 21:15:54 GMT
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
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Might I humbly suggest that some of the postings have missed a crucial point.
Most examples given aren't showing that audiences trust picture over sound,
but that they trust picture over =speech=.
This is a very different matter. As was said, film is normally taken to be a
representation of reality - both picture and sound. Speech is not
necessarily a representation of reality. Speech is a communication, and
therefore can lie.
Unless the film has prepared us otherwise, we will trust what we see - =and
hear= - over what we are "told" whether we are told in verbal language
(sound) or non-verbal (picture). For example:
(picture) Man kicks dog - trusted over (dialogue) "I love animals"
(sound) Dog yelping in pain - trusted over (picture) Man makes great show of
looking innocent.
(This is why I - and others - always advise beginner screenwriters to "show,
not tell". Showing will always be the more powerful means of conveying
dramatic information in a way that audiences believe it. But "show" includes
both picture and sound.)
When appropriate, audiences can certainly trust aural cues over visual. For
example, music may give an emotional meaning to a scene that is being hidden
by the actions (or lack of them). Or a sound effect could betray the
existence of a threat, even though nothing threatening can actually be seen.
What is interesting, is that it is possible for a film-maker to change the
conventions, so that the visuals and the sound become representations not of
reality but of a character's point of view. This is normally done in
flashback (although the "Blow Up" tennis game example is a rare example of
another way of doing it).
"Rashamon" is probably the most famous case of "unreliable cinematographer" (!)
By contrast, I'm currently writing a script in which I want to introduce an
unreliable scene early on. However, I don't want the audience to realise
it's unreliable until the end. I have a feeling, though, that I will not be
able to include it, because the audience will feel cheated.
Any opinions?
Charlie Harris
Charlie Harris
Footloose Films
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