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Eight Great Ways to Narrate

By Joanna Robinson | Miscellaneous | January 26, 2011 |

By Joanna Robinson | Miscellaneous | January 26, 2011 |

While I’m often a fan of very naturalistic filmmaking, there’s a part of me (the part, I suspect, that majored in English) that enjoys the somewhat mannered device of a narrator. Some people consider narrators lazy filmmaking, preferring the camera and dialogue to do the storytelling. I agree there are some instances, usually literary adaptations, where the filmmakers seem to only include a narrator out of a reluctance to let certain lines go. Though who can blame someone for holding onto “it is a truth universally acknowledged…?” Here they are, literary or no, some of my favorite film narrators. Beware, gentle readers, some things whimsy this way come.

The Supporting Character: “The Shawshank Redemption”

Before Morgan Freeman narrated everything from penguins to the Olympics, he made me fall in love with innocuous words and phrases like “icy cold Bohemian style beer” and “Zihuatanejo.”

The Prologue: “The Brothers Bloom”

That voice you hear is Ricky Jay who is usually employed for his sleight-of-hand work, but kills it in this opening sequence which rhymes…slantingly…mostly…tome/Bloom…nice try otherwise.

The Protagonist: “Zombieland”

While I’ll grant you that Woody Harrelson stole a lot (see I do know how to spell it) of the show, the comedy inherent in Jesse Eisenberg’s dry but earnest delivery shouldn’t be underestimated. “Someone’s ear is in danger of getting hair brushed behind it.” COME ON!

The Omniscient Narrator: “The Royal Tenenbaums”

Here we have the gravitas of Alec Baldwin anchoring down Wes Anderson’s whimsical hot air balloon of a film. Oh, Jack Donaghy, you can read me the phone book.

The Reminiscent Narrator: “The Sandlot”

I love this style and it works equally well in To Kill A Mockingbird, True Grit, Stand By Me, etc. etc.

The Foreign Tongue: “Amelie”

The best part about this film is that my french is so very poor I often have no idea what this narrator is saying. I mean, obviously, I can read what he’s saying, but not being able to distinguish actual words turn his voice into part of the soundtrack.

The Unreliable Narrator: “Fight Club”

The unreliable narrator is my favorite literary device and this one is only revealed right at the end. That’s part of the reason Fight Club is worth watching over and over and over again. That and the Pitt abs. And the man boobs.

The Direct Address: “Ferris Bueller”

Aw, Matthew, I used to love you so. Danke Schön for the memories.

Joanna Robinson would have been able to have a lady narrator in here, d*mmit, if youtube had obliged with a To Kill A Mockingbird clip. Also, Emma Stone’s people have asked that I stop writing about Easy A because my liberal application of love spackle is giving her the creeping heebie jeebies. Sorry, Emma, babe, call me!

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