Valerie Špuláková created this video essay in the Department of Film Studies at Charles University in Prague under the supervision of Jiří Anger and Kevin B. Lee. First published in Notes on Videographic Criticism on June 12, 2020.
How did you come up with the idea for this video essay? What was the creative process like? There are a lot of great video essays out there about David Lynch. What is it about his work that makes it so appealing to work with in this format?
I have been interested in dubbing, for a long time. In my country, dubbing is very popular, particularly among older people. But people don't realise how much dubbing changes a film. This bothers me. It's a more serious offence when a director so meticulously crafts a film with sound being such a vital component for the audience. This storytelling through sound is why David Lynch states the extreme importance of sound design. Speaking about David Lynch is not the purpose, the aim was to speak about dubbing. Using Twin Peaks is a great example to demonstrate the issues I talk about. I decided to work with this topic (where I talk especially about sound) using an audio-visual essay format because it’s impossible to describe sound precisely in words; just as you could hardly describe the beauty of a piece of music in words alone. It’s much more effective to hear it, rather than attempt to put it into words. If I were to do so, it would further distort the film in the mind of the audience.
Why did you decide to not provide the voice over for the essay yourself? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of collaborating on a video essay?
The answer to this question is very simple. I decided to use someone else’s voice because I did not find my voice good enough for two reasons. I am not a native English speaker and I think the foreign accent is a little distracting. The second reason is that it’s harder to be objective listening to my own voice because I am focusing on the sound of my voice, rather than the content of what I am saying. The benefit of collaboration is that I can impartially evaluate the merits of my script and what I aim to impart to the viewer and whether I’ve achieved this. Some people found it interesting that I decided to collaborate on the voice-over and they mentioned that it could be seen as “dubbing” (which is quite ironic considering that the topic and critique are about dubbing). I don’t consider it as a dubbing though. I see Josh (who provided the voice-over) as a voice-actor. I worked with him, in fact, I directed him - it did not break the author’s purpose, which is one of my main problems with dubbing, as I state in the essay.
I found the mirrored multi-screen and the use of black space to be very effective. How did you come up with this idea? Why did you choose these effects? What do they bring to the piece?
The mirrored screen has a precise purpose - it was holding a mirror up to the film. I am talking about two different versions of the same film. It should have implied that although the dubbed film seems to present itself as the same film, it differs from the original, just like that of a mirrored image: it differs a lot, it’s twisted and distorted. Black bars on either side provide a space for the text. The text was mostly just highlighting something mentioned in the voice-over. I didn't want to intrude on the film scenes with my commentary. I'm a big fan of minimalist, brief, and clear audio-visual essay style. In my opinion, it helps the audience concentrate on the issue and is less likely to distract them.
What was the most difficult part of making this video essay? Is there one part you're most proud of?
For me it was difficult to determine the audience for this essay; in the first versions of the essay, it's obvious I wasn't sure about this. In the end, I decided to create an essay with the main purpose being to show and demonstrate the problems with dubbing. These issues are not just the linguistic and vocal differences, but also less obvious problems which damage the intended meaning and purpose of the original film. I am actually content with the whole piece in general, as it was my first audio-visual essay. It provided me with a new way of thinking about and expressing my work; especially since it is a more effective and engaging way to “write” about film. I am very grateful to my supervisors Jiří Anger and Kevin B.Lee for this experience.