Swarnavel Eswaran Pillai – Abstract

The Texture of Interiority: Voiceover and Visuals

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This essay concerns itself with the myriad ways in which the voice-over gets interwoven with other sounds within the final soundtrack of a film, and variety of reactions these elicit from the audience as auditors as well as viewers. Focusing on a few selected films like Sydney Pollock’s Out of Africa (1985), David Lean’s Brief Encounter (1945), Chris Marker and Pierre Lhomme’s Le Joli Mai (1963), and Bob Rosen and Andrea Simon’s Fayum Portraits (1988), filmmakers paying specific attention to the role of female voice-overs therein, it explores how the voice-over assumes the role of the heterodiegetic voice of a third-person narrator, or the first person voice of a character embedded in the film, and further, goes on to sometimes defy these definitions by addressing the audience directly in the second person. Voice-over narration in films range from representing the inner monologue of a main character that offers a limited point-of-view, to allowing the audience access to an omniscient narrator, which then allows the filmmaker to experiment with unlimited points-of view as well as with the time and sequence of the occurrence of various events in the film.

More important, this essay also examines, how the materiality of the sounds in voice-overs, and the dynamic relationship the voice-over forms with other sounds, both inside and outside the diegesis, create a texture which enables a space for experimentation with regard to the specific goals of narration in a film. Toward this end, with the textual readings of the voiceover and its specificity, it engages with Deleuze and Guattari’s seminal essay, “The Smooth and the Striated,” to explore the ways we could think of texture in the context of the materiality of the voice and its valences as it weaves itself through other dominant sounds in the soundscape of a film, and more importantly, coheres the visuals to delineate the narrative, while simultaneously shedding light on the interiority of the characters.

Voiceover, Sound Balance, Smooth and Striated, Out of Africa, Chris Marker, Brief Encounters, Le Joli Mai, Interiority, Texture, Soundscape.