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M; Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder (Lang, Fritz), 1931

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everything. According to Chion, the history of the cinema contains a double strategy between the «voix acousmatique» (the «invisible voice«) and «écoute visualisée,» which is connected to a source, a speaking body. Chion differentiates among certain types of films: those that are chiefly visually oriented, where sound is a secondary aspect, and those (mostly mystery or suspense films) that begin with acousmatic vocal effects and then later use «désacousmatisation» to assign a source to the speaker or incarnation.[16] In the original sense, «acousmatique» refers simply to the voices that remain invisible. However, Chion writes that a true «acousmêtre» (an acousmatic being or creature «être acousmatique») is only present when the voice has no incarnation whatsoever, when it can no longer be measured or calculated (and thus cannot be confused with an acousmetrie), or when it resists visual identification. Hence, it always has a certain eeriness. An excellent example of this is in Fritz Lang's «M.» At first, only the shadow of the child murderer is visible on the post, upon which a wanted poster of the murderer can be seen; the off-camera voice speaks to the little girl. Paradigmatically, the visual impression a


mere shadow is only shaken through the contrasting presence of the voice standing in for the absence of the eye, or the optical presence. In this context, Chion speaks of the ombre parlant, knowing well that Victor Hugo, in his spiritualist séances on the Isle of Guernesey, also spoke of bouches d'ombre. So this faceless, incorporeal, unlocatable «vocal being» always possesses a numinous power, the aura of a godly voice, ultimately the » acousmaître.» On the other hand, Chion says that we are more familiar with the acousmatic being known as the commentator, an off-camera voice that is not seen on the screen because it has no business being there. Commentators can be narrators (including the first-person narrative voice) and authors (as in the auctorial narrator), as well as antagonistic toward the onscreen events. They are more or less distanced from the events being narrated. At the same time, film «acousmêtre» (as opposed to the radiophone, spiritous, or psychiatric) always refers to the specifically cinematographic synchronization of image and sound unlike the theater, where the location of scene and voiceover is fixed. Thus film represents another way of dealing with space and

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