Making A Start – With the Voice of Michel Chion

Moving Narrative 2 has been a hard module to grasp as of late, not because of any difficulty but it seems I have taken on a massive project with the likes of my negotiated, ‘Hearing is Believing‘. I truly find myself lacking any time focusing on Moving Narrative 2 at this time. I feel that perhaps the main problem is the focus of topic I have decided on. Whilst looking through the library for inspiration, I came across a book titled Voice In Cinema by Michel Chion. (Chion and Gorbman, 1999) Reading through the introduction I became enthralled. Sound has become an important part in my make-up as a  film maker, not only does it interest me, I truly believe this is where cinema gets its strongest tool when becoming a powerful and immerse format.


When thinking, or more importantly using sound, my attention always went on many aspects. Music was my first interest, in regards to how it could manipulate an audience, tell them how to feel, or confuse them with emotions that didn’t match the visuals. For example A Clockwork Orange  (A Clockwork Orange, 1971) singing in the rain scene does this notably, a happy song about love and joy mixed in with rape and a bit of the old ultra-violence. Next my attention turned towards atmosphere and sound design, especially with ‘Hearing is Believing’, I have really tried to create a three-dimensional space by using sound, in hope that this will give birth to the universe it is set in. Becoming aware with the use of silence and sound as a coherent tool has been the main focus. As well as this, influence from such sonic artists like Janet Cardiff’s and  George Buers Miller’s and their installation ‘Paradise Insitute’ (Cardiff and Miller, 2001).

cardiff_and_miller_the_paradise_institute_2001_2_1944x1320This has given me a more in-depth look as well as an experimental outlook at sound and its ability to become interactive. The use of audience connectivity and interaction is relevant when creating a three-dimensional space as it gives you an insight on how to make the viewer believe. This is how I saw sound to be, a build of score, sound design and atmosphere. Of course dialog played a part but that was on the top to simply drive narrative. Or was it? From reading the introduction of Chion’s book, my ideology and naivety were totally revamped and shaped for the better. It soon became apparent that the dialog, or lack of it, played a vital role in the film. To understand dialog as simply ‘spoken words’ was unfathomable in Chion’s eyes. It was the interior and exterior of dialog, the missing or hidden source of sound, the female voice and that comfort or discomfort. This is where my worries would begin.



It seemed to me that although my audio interest was turned upside down, it was something that I had never learnt about, let alone knew about. Rummaging  through I soon realized that this book would take a good few readings through to even begin grasping the context of Chion’s ideas. It would have been simple if I decided on a topic that we had already touched upon in recent months but this was totally new. This feeling of fear did coincide with a feeling of excitement, it’s in this excitement that my head is telling me to go for it. To note it’s affected me enough to know that this is what my 3rd year dissertation piece will be about.

To say I will have any real idea of both Chion’s excellence and views would be preposterous so I wish not to make that claim. Yet. Despite this I wish to still enter the world of Chion, even if it’s simply tapping at the door. My theory is that Moving Narrative could play a brilliant and important part as an introduction to my dissertation, starting now gives me a head start and only increases my odd’s in getting a positive final year result. So it’s settled, I will go ahead. I will clarify with Dan if this is acceptable but I am positive that it will be.

My aim for the 15 minute presentation as well as for myself will be to introduce this theory, make aware of the importance of dialog and its hidden power, and with a bit of luck start deconstructing a part of his research.

Oh and make a visual/audio response.

By what incomprehensible thoughtlessness can we, in considering what after all is called the talking picture, “forget” the voice? Because we confuse it with speech. From the speech act we usually retain only the significations it bears, forgetting the medium of the voice itself. Of course the voice is there to be forgotten in its materiality; only at this cost does it fill its primary function.



A Clockwork Orange. (1971). [film] United Kingdom: Stanley Kubrick.

Cardiff, J. and Miller, G. (2001). Paradise Institute.

Chion, M. and Gorbman, C. (1999). The voice in cinema. 1st ed. New York: Columbia University Press.



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