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December 1996, Week 1


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Donald Larsson <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 4 Dec 1996 12:54:15 -0600
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I have another random observation, prompted by a student's question at an
exam last night.
Puzzled by a reference to diegetic voice in TOKYO STORY, she asked, "Wasn't
that a silent film?"
No, I responded.  It *did* have subtitles, but there was dialogue.
"But we couldn't hear their voices, could we?" she asked.  I assured her that
we could, which at least settled the problem for purposes of the exam.
Now, I have seen similar confusion before, where students will refer to a
foreign-language, subtitled film as a "silent" film, and I have presumed that
they merely conflated together all films that they had to "read" under the
heading of "silent."
But now I wonder if, in at least some cases, they *literally* have not "heard"
the dialogue, if foreign languages strike them just as so much noise or
if they are so intent on reading the titles, they missing hearing the
dialogue at all!  If so, is this common to all foreign languages or is it
intensified by non-European experiences, as in TOKYO STORY.
I wonder if anyone else has noticed this, or if there is any research on the
Thanks in advance for your thoughts!
Don Larsson, Mankato State U (MN)
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