Tuesday, April 10, 2007


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Have you ever watched a film and found it almost impossible to fathom what the heck is going on because the cast all sound like they're trying to annunciate their lines around a giant gob-stopper? Could it be that they've all been held captive in the Marlon Brando school of method acting for the past decade?

A bizarre trend for delivering rapid-fire, hushed dialogue through clenched teeth seems to be gripping Hollywood at the moment. It's so prevalent I wouldn't be at all surprised if we soon decided to adopt lip reading as the official international language of celluloid. I catch these antiquated black and white classics on obscure Sky channels where the entire cast meticulously project the script like microphoneless thespians performing in a Roman ampitheatre, and have to wonder where it all went wrong. The days when TV and movie producers were cognisant of the relationship between clarity of dialogue and audiences actually being able to comprehend the plot are long gone.

Rafts of modern TV shows may as well be scripted in Swahili as so much of their dialogue is also getting lost in translation. If subtitles aren't available, often I'll just throw in the towel, and according to 'The joy of subtitles', an article by the Beeb, I'm not alone. I wonder how many of those six million people using subtitles in the absence of any hearing impairment also keep their trigger finger poised over their remote control's rewind button.

The theory the author postulates to explain the phenomenon indicates why we're just as likely to encounter duff dialogue clarity sitting in a cinema as we are watching a DVD or TV show at home through a traditional TV with tinny stereo speakers.

Even with the best audio system money can buy, on a few occasions sitting in cinemas I've had to restrain myself from grasping for the rewind button in a futile attempt to unravel an indecipherable line. Duh! Mummy always said I was special. ;)


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