1. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Contributor Contributor

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    Why isn't this done in movies more?

    Discussion in 'Entertainment' started by Bone2pick, Feb 16, 2019.



    "And I knew just as surely, and just as clearly, that life is not a work of art . . . and that the moment could not last."

    I'm a big admirer of the film A River Runs Through It. It's probably in my top twenty favorite films—though I can't say that for sure, as I haven't hammered out that list in a while. Regardless of how you feel about it, I'd like to talk about the movie's use of narration. I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit I haven't read the novel the film is based on, but it seems pretty clear to me that much of the narration was lifted straight from the book.

    I feel that was a wonderful choice. It gave me the richness of the author's carefully crafted language and paired it with the majestic cinematography, top-notch performances, and enchanting music of the movie. Which makes me wonder: why not do this more often for novel adaptations?

    I'm not suggesting use a narrator for every adaptation, as I imagine that would get stale. But I don't understand why so few film adaptations make use of narration. Maybe it only strikes the right note for certain story tones or genres? I'm not sure. Do you have any thoughts on this?
     
  2. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I noticed it mainly in film noir so maybe it had a stigma? Film noirs were crowd pleasers but they were low budget and I don't think anyone thought much of them till the 70s. Don't know though. The technique popped up now and again - A Christmas Story, Kiss of the Spider Woman and TV shows like Magnum and Malcom in the Middle. I always liked it, it felt rather cozy like getting the best of both worlds visual - movie and prose - book. I can't imagine A Christmas Story being as funny without the narration.
     
  3. Malisky

    Malisky Sirocco Contributor

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    You have to have a clear reason for placing narration into a film (and comic book). A film itself is a narration but through images, so having someone narrate is usually redundant. Let the viewer narrate in his mind what he sees. I've watched "A River Runs Through It" but I don't remember a thing about it, so I'm going to explain what I mean through "Shawshank Redemption".

    In this film, the MC is not the protagonist. Now, what do I mean by that? All the information about the story and the protagonist as well, is narrated by the friend of the protagonist. The protagonist is Andy Dufresne while the MC and narrator is Ellis Boyd 'Red' Redding. We never get inside the head of the protagonist although the story is about him, his life, his growth as a character and his escape. We only get inside the head of the MC, who becomes very close friends with the protagonist and there would not be a story at all, if Ellis was not mesmerized enough by this person. Seems like Ellis is the author (figuratively). We get a story written by Ellis, about a character he met and inspired him. Why did this type of narration work in this film?

    First of all... Morgan Freeman of course! :p

    It worked, because it centers on a very unique character, which remains quite mysterious to the narrator as well as to the viewer, until the very end. We never get inside of his head. We never see his point of view. He keeps everything inside. He had been plotting his escape for years. We knew nothing about that, neither did the narrator whilst everything was happening. The protagonist remains mysterious and the suspense of the story builds up perfectly until the very end. The narrator is the person that makes him more human and relatable.

    It's indeed a very rare type of narration and I love it, but it really has to make sense in order to use it. I've watched a number of films and series that used it in the worst possible way, which is a pity.

    Watch this:

     
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  4. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Indeed, one of the main reasons sidekicks became so popular is for radio dramas (and it remained so for television), is as an excuse for exposition.

    "But Hoppy, what do you expect to find?"
    "Remember that torn off piece of fabric after the bank robbery, California? I think we'll find a torn shirt that matches that scrap somewhere in the bunkhouse."

    or especially in radio (no pictures, of course):
    "Look out, Hopalong, he's drawing his gun!"
     
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  5. JLT

    JLT Contributor Contributor

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    There's an aversion to narration in most of the cinematic arts. The rule is "Show, don't tell." And the need to narrate is seen as a failure to tell the story visually, I think. When you do hear narration, it's usually in the form of a prologue, where the narrator is filling you in on the history that precedes the action of the movie.

    A River Runs Through It is an exception to that rule, because the narrator is forcing the retrospective. It's deliberately taking you out of the scene to reflect on what the scene is about from a distance, reinforcing the concept that the whole movie is a sort of memoir. I thought that was a brilliant decision on Robert Redford's part.
     
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  6. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Contributor Contributor

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    I completely agree. The narration in A River Runs Through It gets the benefit of the novel's wonderful, romantic prose. Rob Reiner's Stand By Me also used narration remarkably well imo.

     

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