Saturday, October 8, 2011
Slap upside the head
It opens with extreme close ups, slightly out of focus, of a young woman smoking. Faded in and out of 'to black' which was mildly annoying until Cut To:
An older man waking up in bed to the sound of children's voices in the background... then a woman's voice, undoubtedly his wife.
Okay, got it! He's married. He's dreaming about an as yet unknown (to us) young woman. He has kids. Nice set-up, economically done, with the prospect of conflict on any number of levels.
All shown VISUALLY. Nicely done.
Then THIS happens in voice-over:
"On the day before his fortieth birthday, Hector awoke with one thing in mind - Connie. For a moment he luxuriated in the memory of her... but then he made his resolve... to sort things out."
We SEE him thinking about the dream. We have SEEN that dream, what was on his mind. Why is someone telling me EXACTLY what I can see on screen? Who is this third person narrator - God? The neighbour? The guy in the surveillance van manning the webcam? And who the hell uses words like 'luxuriated' and phrases like 'made his resolve'? I assume they are lifted from the book???
It is such TERRIBLE writing! Why? Because it treats me, the viewer, as if I was a moron. After showing me all this visually, the writer decides he has to make sure I get it with a clunky, disembodied voice. If all the voice-over does is tell you what you can already see it is REDUNDANT. This is why I think Underbelly is so poorly written - the damn cricket bat to the head voice-over.
Please, Please, PLEASE - have faith in your material; have faith in the audience; have faith in your actors who can communicate more with a look than paragraphs of tacky voice-over ever can.
It took me out of the story within the first two minutes. I lost faith in the writer in that moment. I watched maybe 2-3 more minutes then tabled it to do other things. Yes, I will go back and watch the full episode. But I thought it was an instructive example of how a contrived writers' device can kill a scene or set-up.
What do you think?