While it can come as a surprise to anyone who leaves the cinema quoting favourite lines of dialogue, film is generally considered a visual rather than a verbal medium. But what makes certain dialogue pleasurable for an audience? And should we only praise film speech that is easily extracted and repeated? Through a focus on selected low-budget US cinema — including the work of Jim Jarmusch, Hal Hartley and Richard Linklater — this talk will argue that it’s impossible to separate the adage that ‘talk is cheap’ from the crucial role of the spoken word in indie cinema. Yet, as the creativity of the resulting dialogue design and execution suggests, this is no bad thing. Here I contend that it’s the way such speech is integrated with the sound and image tracks, as well as performed to create the impression of spontaneous thought, which makes it cognitively engaging and a cinematic — rather than literary — device.
About the speaker: Jennifer O’Meara is a Teaching Fellow in Film Studies at the University of St Andrews. She has published on a range of contemporary film and media topics, in venues such as Cinema Journal, Feminist Media Studies, The New Soundtrack, and the Journal of Digital Media Arts and Practice. She is currently completing a monograph on dialogue in American independent cinema, to be published by Edinburgh University Press.