Top 10 Voice-Overs In Film

By April 9, 2011Top 10 Lists

5. Adaptation (2002)

Charlie Kaufman (V.O.)

I am pathetic, I am a loser…

Robert McKee

So what is the substance of writing?

Charlie Kaufman (V.O.)

I have failed, I am panicked. I've sold out, I am worthless, I… What the fuck am I doing here? What the fuck am I doing here? Fuck. It is my weakness, my ultimate lack of conviction that brings me here. Easy answers used to shortcut yourself to success. And here I am because my jump into the abysmal well – isn't that just a risk one takes when attempting something new? I should leave here right now. I'll start over. I need to face this project head on and…

Robert McKee

…and God help you if you use voice-over in your work, my friends. God help you. That’s flaccid, sloppy writing. Any idiot can write voice-over narration to explain the thoughts of a character.

Adaptation is a film written by Charlie Kaufman, about Charlie Kaufman (Nicholas Cage), writing an adaptation of a novel into a film. And the film contains scenes from both Charlie’s writing process at the time of adaptation, as well as the adapted film itself… or something like that. Anyway, you can gather that it’s all very meta and going to have some meta, self-reflexive moments. The voice-over is used in this way. At the point where McKee rants about how “any idiot” can use voice-over, Charlie’s voice-over disappears from the film until ultimately Charlie declares that he doesn’t care anymore, that “It feels right.” The ego is triumphant! As we all know, writing can be a very lonely, and at times, frustrating process. Hearing Charlie’s thoughts and anxieties make him empathetic and likeable, without being too overpowering. I felt comfortable knowing that I’m not the only one to occasionally stare at a blank screen, pondering muffins.

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