Sonic interstices

Sonic interstices: voice-over commentary and spectatorial space

Laura Rascaroli, University College Cork


This paper contends with voice-over as a crucial tool for essayistic documentary making, and takes as its case study Robert Cambrinus’s 2009 short non-fiction feature, Commentary. A 15-minute HD video, Commentary stems from, and is a revisiting of, Cambrinus’s own fictional short The Good Muslim, also shot in 2009 on HD video. The non-fiction consists in the superimposition of the director’s voice over the images of the fiction feature; in post-production, he delivers a commentary that is a pastiche of a new non-fictional ‘genre’: the expert commentaries added as bonus features to DVDs of both canonical masterpieces and popular box-office hits.

Irony is, evidently, one of the registers invoked by Cambrinus’s voice; however, much more is at stake in this commentary, which results simultaneously in a documentary take on the making of The Good Muslim, in an essayistic reflection on religion, identity, family, ageing and human relationships, and in a first-person investigation of autobiographical themes.

Having remarked that a voice-over which engages with a fiction by connecting it to the reality of the world is sufficient to produce a non-fiction, this paper will explore various aspects of Cambrinus’s commentary, and will place emphasis on features of his voice-over including grain of the voice and delivery. In particular, it will explore the ‘space’ created by the superimposition in post-production of a human voice (and of silence) over the images of an existing film. Ultimately, it will argue that the interstice which is created via the new soundtrack becomes the place of the spectator. From within such a space, which exists somewhere in between the voice-over and the images, the spectator establishes a relationship with the enunciator, negotiates between the superimposed commentary and the images that are commented upon, and embarks on an intellectual and emotional dialogue with the fictional universe of artistic creation on the one hand, and the non-fictional plane of documentary, essayistic and autobiographical values on the other.

By examining this particular case study, my paper aims at exploring ideas that are of broad interest to non-fiction cinema and, especially, to essayistic cinema—a genre in which a direct communication is often established between enunciator and audience precisely via the use of a human voice that, while musing on the visual track, addresses the embodied spectator and attempts to establish a truthful dialogue with him/her.


Laura Rascaroli is Senior Lecturer in Film Studies at University College Cork, where she co-directs the MA in Film Studies. She is the author, in collaboration with Ewa Mazierska, of From Moscow to Madrid: European Cities, Postmodern Cinema (2003), The Cinema of Nanni Moretti: Dreams and Diaries (2004), and Crossing New Europe: Postmodern Travel and the European Road Movie (2006). Her monograph, The Personal Camera: Subjective Cinema and the Essay Film, was published by Wallflower Press in 2009. She is currently co-editing with John David Rhodes Antonioni: Centenary Essays (BFI, 2011) and, with Patrick O’Donovan, The Cause of Cosmopolitanism: Dispositions, Models, Transformations (Peter Lang, 2011).


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