Voice-over techniques in Spike Jonze’s Adaptation


By adopting the tools of multimodal stylistic analysis (McIntyre 2008; Nørgaard 2014; Pillière 2014; Zurru 2010), this article explores the forms and functions of the voice-over in Spike Jonze’s critically acclaimed film, Adaptation, released in 2002. Subverting the traditional monologic and stable configuration, the film’s voice-over is polyphonic and fluid: it involves multiple speakers and sometimes it features turn-taking. A polycentric semiotic technique, the voice-over inhabits the interstitial filmic spaces within the shots, as well as broader horizons beyond the shot boundaries. A range of visual-verbal patterns are also deployed, generating semiotic effects of consonance and dissonance. Results show that, rather than operating in binary opposition to the voice-in, the voice-over moves along a cline from voice-in as dialogue to the voice-over commentary typical of documentaries. As such, the aural system is also functionally layered; it serves a range of distinct yet interconnected roles, expressing thoughts, as well as passages that are read or written by the protagonist. This multifunctional resource, ultimately, unveils the collaborative and transformative process of screen adaptation narrated by the analysed meta-film.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i22390359v53p173

Keywords: voice-over; multimodal stylistic analysis; film; adaptation; Spike Jonze.


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