Thursday, July 17, 2008

Two movies, well one and a third actually as the second one I couldn’t finish and switched off. The first one I would have switched off as well if it hadn’t been for the English subtitles we added ten minutes after the start because once again the modern bugbear of movie-making struck and we could not understand a word of the dialogue, well hardly a word. What is it about modern actors that they simply do not know how to use their mouths except for, I take it, eating and possibly other things, but certainly not for saying their lines? What one gets are grunts, groans murmurs and mumbles.. The whole phenomenon started, as most things seem to do these days, in the states, but unfortunately British actors have taken it up and are almost as incomprehensible. There was a time if you slammed a door, scraped back a chair or rattled a teacup in the middle of a sentence the sound engineer would demand a retake. These days it would seem the writer is wasting his time with dialogue because no one is going to hear it anyway. With Nicole Kidman usually I can understand one word in eleven. It’s no use telling me that, as almost a geriatric, I am deaf as a post because that is not the case. A little hard of hearing for which I laid out the magnificent sum of 1200euro for a state of the art hearing age which should enable me to hear every word Nicole Kidman says. I am informed that possibly her voice is in an awkward (that’s putting it nicely) range for my ears. Now it may not be entirely her fault. It could be the director, it could be the sound engineer and editors – background music has become thump thump thump in your ear foreground music with dialogue relegated to the far distance, or it might partly be the reception. Whatever the cause, and I still believe it is mainly due to bad diction, it puts one off movies unless one can have the cushion of subtitles. Take for example Saving Private Ryan which we actually saw in the cinema rather than on DVD, the only person whose dialogue we could hear was the actress playing the mother. Now if, in a scene involving two people, you can hear one quite clearly but not the other, where does the fault lie? The first film I am talking about is Signs, not a bad movie on the whole despite the holes but could I hear a word of Mr Phoenix’s dialogue? Could I hell! Take any film of the forties, fifties or sixties and you hear what actors are saying without over-enunciating but now we have what is called modern film-making, and don’t tell me it’s all about moving pictures because one still needs to follow the plot if there is one. The Victorians didn’t used to say as we do that they were going to see a play, but they were going to hear a play. I wish I could say the same thing about modern cinema. Less might be more but too much less fades into obscurity.

The second movie, of which I watched about one third, was called Mists of Avalon and was the biggest load of hooey imaginable. The myth that there was an English king named Arthur round about, let’s see now, was it 5th century? 6th? Maybe a wee bit earlier or a wee bit later? Who knows? With all his knights, his Camelot, his round table it has certainly given film makers a lot of mileage. Pity it’s all such bunkum. Oh yes, there was an Arthur, there was a Gwenivere, there was a Lancelot du Lac. There was even a Merlin and a King Llyr but they lived and died round about the time of the Emperor Claudius. There was no round table, no Camelot. Just because a medieval writer used the words “fought like an Arthur” does not necessarily mean Arthur was a medieval king. It wouldn’t be so bad if the films were up to scratch as films but, alas, mostly they’re crap. In my humble opinion so is the musical.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I completely agree about the terrible diction of so many actors these days, and not only young ones, but they tend to be the worst offenders. Part of it stems from the adoption of so much street slang by young, part I think has to be poor training. I realise that it was a long time since many actors were trained on the stage, which would improve things. I have good hearing and good speakers, but even replayed loud, much speech is a complete mystery. A couple of years ago at an awards ceremony, Michael Caine had a rant about sound men, who, so consumed with music, sound effects et al, forget about dialogue. They are only part of the problem. Increasingly many people seem to act by numbers too.