I often go to cinemas to watch a film and, of course, I see films on television but I’m sorry to report I am often disappointed. Too many of them I find incomprehensible. I have identified the causes (yes, plural I’m afraid) and there are three:

Mumbling

I estimate that I hear about 50% of the dialogue in most modern films and in quite a few TV dramas, for example, Homeland.  I appreciate that this may be my fault; perhaps my hearing is failing.  My wife would certainly agree – she is convinced I need a hearing aid.  However, that doesn’t necessarily mean I really do. Interestingly, in normal everyday life I can hear everyone except my wife (see what I mean about being in denial?).  I have checked with some friends of a similar age and I notice that being able to hear everyone except one’s wife is a widespread phenomenon.  A bit of a mystery really, it should clearly be the subject of psychological research!

Flashbacks

I find these very confusing unless the screen goes all wavy or goes from colour to black and white or vice versa.  I’d even like a notice saying ‘flashback’.  I am convinced that darting forwards and backwards in time is not at all clever; indeed deliberately designed to confuse. I have even sussed out how it is done.  You write a story in straightforward chronological order (that’s the difficult bit) then you close your eyes and randomly cut and paste chunks of text and plonk them down in any order (that’s the easy bit).

Characters looking too similar

Big cause of confusion this.  If I ever made a film (don’t worry, it will never happen) I would ensure goodies and badies were as distinctive as possible; blond/brunette, black/white, long hair/short hair, clean shaven/bearded….and so on.  I am a visual person but it is amazing how often I mistake identities because the actors playing different parts look, to me, interchangeable.

Armed with these prejudices I went to see Chinatown at the BFI.  This was made in 1974.  Wonderfully clear diction, a story told in chronological order, characters it was impossible confuse.  Bliss.

Perhaps the answer is for me to confine myself to old films.  Kind Hearts and Coronets is my all time favourite.

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