Many claim that voiceover (and I am cheating a little bit here by using “voiceover” and “narration” as interchangeable, even though they’re somewhat different things) is not very rigorous, and yet some of the most rigorous films ever made – Bresson’s Diary of a Country Priest and A Man Escaped, Alain Resnais’s Last Year at Marienbad – utilize it. We mouth to ourselves the idea that there’s something impure about narration, but when it pops up in the right situation we embrace it. Sometimes I wonder if we just create these rules so other people can break them.
I’m as guilty as anyone of rolling my eyes when I hear voiceover narration, and in many cases it’s because I ascribe to the exact “rules” Ebiri calls into question. Perhaps I am simply disappointed in how poorly this uniquely cinematic technique is often employed, not with the technique itself.
I’m glad Ebiri took the time to thoroughly discount the belief that voiceover is inherently flawed or a lazy crutch, offering some great, classic examples.
(via Matt Zoller Seitz.)