putting words on the image
February 13, 2007 § 2 Comments
From Harold Lloyd’s Just Neighbors.
The only instance I’ve seen so far of anything at all written on a moving image in silent films is to indicate any noise, sound, usually of non-human origin,, and usually for comic purposes.
For instance in this sequence (where Bebe Daniels is, incidentally, doing a lot of looking at the director off-camera, who is probably directing her — on top of the usual slapstick look-at-the-audience routine)
This sequence is what silent films traditionally do. Shot #3 is ridiculously short, just a flash on the screen, since there is no time between the two lines, and practically this is a case where the audience is engrossed in reading funny lines, rather than looking at images. There could be no image in between and it wouldn’t matter much, except that it’s a bit more comfortable anchoring the Bebe’s reply to her image of shock, however brief.
But then the parrot in the background joins the shouting match with:
Words flash on the screen. Rather than dialogue, this is a background sound which belongs materially to the image itself. The other solution would have been a close-up, an insert of the parrot “talking”, as with instruments, trumpets, horses’ hooves, and so on. But since the parrot needs to be shown talking and his word is also important, this is probably the most economical solution.