Heard But Not Seen: Thoughts on Audio Commentary
Modern movie-making has developed so much since the days of its inception. Filmmakers came in, made magic, and went home. The idea of the acting celebrity grew in popularity. People wanted to know more about the people who made movies. But more than that, they wanted to know about movies: how they were made, what went into them. With the developments in technology, filmmakers now have the option to indulge the excited film buff. They can release “Director’s Cut” versions of the film to show how they wanted the film to look without the restrictions placed on them by producers and other studio heads. DVDs and Blu-Rays now include more behind-the-scenes information about the film and the people involved.
When I first learned that most of my films came with audio commentary, I wasn’t all that excited. My first reaction was that I didn’t like people talking over my movies. The next was that I just didn’t care about what the people who made the movie had to say about it. I already loved the film. That’s why I owned it on DVD. Nothing they could say would be changing my mind.
Time was, and still is, a big issue for me. The majority of the time when I watch films in the comfort of my own home, it’s often while I’m doing something else. I can usually follow a film fairly well while only giving it 80% of my attention. With audio commentary, you can’t do that. There are often multiple people involved in audio commentaries, none of which you can see, and so you’re left to notice on your own when the person speaking shifts from one to the next.
Time is also an issue for me in another way. It’s hard for me to sit for an hour and a half watching a muted movie, just listening to people talk about it. It’s like they’re having their own little party that we’re privy to, but not at all included in. I had a hard enough time paying attention in class when my teacher talked for half an hour. Multiply not only the time but the number of speakers by three, and I’m already lost.
That having been said, there is some very good audio commentary out there. John Rogers and his creative team from Leverage have some of the most insightful commentary not only about filmmaking, but about writing and plotting as well. The writers from Futurama love pointing out all of the little “in” jokes that they’ve planted. But even these audio commentaries can be hit or miss within the same season. Maybe I’m just finding it hard to engage with the concept, but I’m always hard pressed to find a film that I love enough to watch them talk about making it for the entire length of the film.
Movie watching used to mean just a night out at the theater. Then you were able to bring the movies home and watch them. With technology the way it is now, you’re tempted to almost pull up additional chairs when the cast and crew take you through the film themselves. But who knows? Maybe one day, technology will find a way to do that too.