The Implicit Observer: Exploring Voiceover and the Sense of Reality in Taiwanese Documentary Films


This study examines the role of voiceover in Taiwanese documentary films, with a focus on the increasing use of self-narration by filmmakers. While filmmaker presence was traditionally believed to enhance authenticity, voiceover holds a complex position in documentary aesthetics. Language's referential nature can convey messages clearly but may also be overly direct, disconnecting audiences and compromising the sense of reality.

This paper reevaluates the function of voiceover and its relationship with reality by introducing the concept of the "implicit observer." The implicit observer represents the audience's imagination of the filmmaker/production team. As Humberto R. Maturana stated, "Everything said is said by an observer." Discourse and perspectives are shaped by observers. While the creators' true identities may be unknown, the work implies a specific filmmaker/production team, presenting a unified voicing blending narrative elements like voiceover, interviews, and narration.

The analysis focuses on three award-winning documentaries centered on Taiwan's mountains and forests: "Sacred Forest" (2019), "Guardians of Formosa: Mountain Forest" (2021), and "Morisaka Memories: The Modern-day Legacy of Hualien's Lintianshan Forest" (2021). Each film showcases distinct characteristics in voiceover usage, conveying diverse world representations and employing unique strategies to engage target audiences.

Author Information
Fabia Lin, National Taitung University, Taiwan

Paper Information
Conference: KAMC2023
Stream: Film Studies

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Posted by James Alexander Gordon