Monday, February 27, 2012

The Voice Over the Story

There are various ways in which a story is told--its narration. First or third person, omniscient or limited, diegetic or non-diegetic, are some of the terms used to describe the narrative style.

Below are two examples in the film versions of a story of how narration is used for dramatic effect.


In this scene, Virginia Cunningham, who is played by Olivia deHavilland, is in the state mental hospital after suffering a nervous breakdown. Her husband is visiting her for the first time. She is sitting at a table waiting for him to bring over ice cream and coffee. She does not speak, but you hear her voice narrating the thoughts in her head. This film is based on the semi autobiographical book The Snake Pit by Mary Jane Ward.

                                                                             FAST FORWARD TO 42:21

In this scene, Red (Morgan Freeman) describes how he supposes that his friend Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) has escaped from prison. Red is not visible in the scene, we only hear his voice, but we see Andy. Red is the narrator in the original short story "Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption" from the Novella Different Seasons by Stephen King.

Narration in film is a part of its sound--voice over, dialogue, sound effects, and music combine into an auditory experience that enhances the visual one. When we read a story, the printed words take the place of the auditory, the narration is then spoken in our imagination, our minds, according to those words. The omission of sound can have as much of an impact in a story as its inclusion, hence the term "the sounds of silence."

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Case Alzheimer or Memory of a Killer

De Zaak Alzheimer is a great film if you appreciate thrillers and can handle sub-titles. Also known as Memory of a Killer, this film is a Belgium adaption from a novel by  Jef Geeraerts and is in the Dutch language. It features a popular European Actor Jan Decleir, who has been in many other films, too many to list here and most without English titles.

Two of Decleir's other films that I've seen (with English titles) that I also very much enjoyed are Hop and Antonia's Line. He is wonderful to watch as he slides into the suit of his characters.

Here is a glimpse of this film which had a particular resonance for me--my favorite genre for both literature and film is mystery-spy-thriller; my mother was born in Belgium; and, unfortunately, she is suffering from Alzheimer's.

I also had a fall term roommate who is from the Netherlands. After seeing the film one evening, I recommended it to him. He watched it and really liked it. 
Of course, he didn't need the subtitles.

If you decide to watch it, please do let me know what you think.

Roger Ebert's Journal

I just learned how to use another feature of blogger and in doing so posted this link to share. It is a fascinating wealth of knowledge of film by the movie man himself. He must have a database in his brain that he can just call on when he writes. Anyway, I'm thankful that he shares his breadth of information so well with us, the public. Thank you, Roger.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Fiction into Film - The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

I prefer to read a story before I see its adaption into film. I can accept changes made to a story in a film, but I can’t prevent my imagination from being affected when I see the film version of a story first. When I read, I relish the picture my imagination creates for me. I begin my paragraph about The Wonderful Wizard of Oz with this point because it’s particularly relevant to this review. I grew up with Dorothy and her three companions, the scarecrow, the tin man, and the cowardly lion. As a young girl growing up in America when the film The Wizard of Oz was regularly shown on network TV beginning with commentary by renowned TV personalities, I counted on it as a staple of my childhood. Baum’s original story was very different from the film version, and because not only had I seen the film first and many, many times, and that it was such a feature of my childhood experience, I was unable to fully realize the potential of my imagination to create an original picture for me. I still enjoyed it, and in fact, I was pleasantly surprised because I was anticipating that I would be reading the story I already knew that was the film.
The twist was that in seeing the film first, and then reading the original story The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, I was dumbstruck by the incongruity of Baum’s introductory stated aim to “solely to please children of the day.” As he felt modern education included morality, he would write a story that would keep all the wonderment and joy, yet leave out all of the heartaches and nightmares. Was that his intention when he created the terrifying creatures called the Kalidahs and or when he had the Tin Woodman use his ax to slay 40 wolves and then cut off the head of a wildcat? Baum’s Tin Woodman provides yet another dichotomy in the following passage, representing how we, as human beings, love.

Tin Woodman knew very well he had no heart, and therefore he took great care never to be cruel or unkind to anything. “You people with hearts,” he said, “have something to guide you, and need never do wrong; but I have no heart, and so I must be very careful. When Oz gives me a heart of course I needn’t mind so much.”
Not having a heart actually makes him more sensitive and “care.” On the other hand, he thinks that when he possesses a heart, it will not be necessary for him to “mind.” The two points are disconnected and opposed, implying that those with hearts are actually careless, and that the mind (intellect) and heart (emotions) can be considered separate. Don’t we always end up hurting the ones we love? What Baum intended to do and what he did is at odds, his story contains profound subject matter and is most certainly morally based. Baum’s notion of writing a story for children’s entertainment sake alone, its discord with the actual story he created and its screen adaption, as well as in the dichotomy evidenced by Tin Woodman’s desire for a heart, set up a wonderful mimicry for the studying of fiction into film.
Dorothy finds out how we hurt the ones we love when she searches for that somewhere else "Over the Rainbow" and ends up breaking Aunt Em's heart. My heart reels when I hear how beautiful Judy Garland's voice is and lovely she sings this song. I sadly recall how very young she was when she died. Perhaps what is gray (like Kansas) is really not if we could look at things through rose colored glasses using the expression inside out or in a glass half full sense.

Henry V - Laurence Olivier's

Now watch the Olivier deliver the same speech. You will see that it is extremely different from the Branagh version
We'll talk about these two versions in more depth in our next post, but consider some obvious points of contrasts in:
  1. Acting
  2. Blocking
  3. Costumes
  4. Lighting
  5. Music
  6. Props
  7. Scenery

Saturday, February 11, 2012

HENRY V - Adaptions - Kenneth Branagh's

This is a continuing look at Henry V from my introduction.

There have been several films made of Henry V, two most notable are—the 1944 version with Sir Lawrence Olivier (Sir because he was knighted) and the 1989 version directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh.

I've posted a clip here from Branagh's film, Henry V. I would highly recommend seeing the entire film to better understand the context and get the full effect of the emotional plea by the King to rally the troops.