Silent Storytelling

Robert Mills

The slide above featured in my recent talk at Second Wednesday in Nottingham. That sentence is lifted from my book and although it’s a hideous case of blowing my own trumpet, I love it. I was talking about how we can tell stories on the web but we don’t have sound so we have to communicate in other ways. We need to find an alternative dialogue.

“Great storytelling doesn’t come from dialogue alone”

Three examples I used on that slide are recent film, The Artist, silent film icon, Charlie Chaplin and the fantastic story of Wall-E. There are so many great examples of brilliant storytelling without dialogue, that I thought I’d group and share some here, starting with the above.

Note: Due to WordPress seemingly having gotten out of bed on the wrong side, I can’t embed the videos here. Please click on any of the images to watch the videos elsewhere.

The Artist

The Artist

This brilliant film is without dialogue the whole way through but is engaging, amusing, heartbreaking and an incredible achievement. It harks back to the silent movie era before the first talkie was released, The Jazz Singer, in 1927. The film makers have created a story through music, expressions, movement, set design, props and mise-en-scène.

Charlie Chaplin

Charlie Chaplin

A legend of the silent era, Chaplin gave us iconic characters such as The Tramp. He could bring stories to life with his facial expressions and gestures. Dialogue wasn’t needed, we could still follow along, laughing along the way. Anyone interested in storytelling techniques should spend some time watching Chaplin clips on YouTube. He is a legend, and deservedly so.

Wall-E

Wall-E

It’s no secret that Pixar are master storytellers but they really stood themselves head and shoulders above others with Wall-E. Largely without dialogue, the audience is drawn in by a little robot who communicates with squeaks and other strange sounds that we are able to attach emotions too. It’s one of the best examples of storytelling without dialogue I have ever seen. Clever, emotional, funny, interesting and beautiful to watch.

Shaun the Sheep

Shaun the Sheep

From Aardman, this children’s series is another great example. There is sound throughout the episodes, music, noises and sound effects but no dialogue. The storytelling is purely visual. It’s rather simple given its target audience but that the episodes are funny is testament to the storytelling abilities of the creators. There are lots of example from this genre.