"Let me tell you a story," each film seems to offer silently as its opening frames hit the screen. But sometimes the film finds a voice--an off-screen narrator--for all or part of the story. From Wuthering Heights and Double Indemnity to Annie Hall and Platoon , voice-over narration has been an integral part of American movies.
Through examples from films such as How Green Was My Valley , All About Eve , The Naked City , and Barry Lyndon , Sarah Kozloff examines and analyzes voice-over narration. She refutes the assumptions that words should only play a minimal role in film, that "showing" is superior to "telling," or that the technique is inescapably authoritarian (the "voice of god"). She questions the common conception that voice-over is a literary technique by tracing its origins in the silent era and by highlighting the influence of radio, documentaries, and television. She explores how first-person or third-person narration really affects a film, in terms of genre conventions, viewer identification, time and nostalgia, subjectivity, and reliability. In conclusion she argues that voice-over increases film's potential for intimacy and sophisticated irony.