"Voice Over" is one of the great lost independent films of the 8o's. And believe me, there weren't many great films in that dull, flat-line decade. The film delves into the mind of a radio DJ in Wales who has gained a cult following through his dramatic readings. His life is slowly unraveling when he discovers a severely beaten woman on the side of a road. He takes her into his flat and cleans and dresses her. A kind of primitive consciousness takes hold of the man and pulls him shaking and stuttering into a deep, murky excursion down the rabbit hole to a place somewhere between Cocteau and Polanski. On a larger scale, the film's main themes are a meditation on the shattering, fragmented remnants of communication in modern society, the inability to find love, and a desperation and loneliness that culminate in a final flailing struggle to justify one's existence in a stark, desolate landscape. The only other closest parallel I can think of to this film is the music of Ian Curtis and Joy Division. "Voice Over" is a sort-of visual equivalent to whatever gray mist Curtis was motoring through, whilst not too far away (roughly at the exact same time) director Christopher Monger was creating his own dark song. The tragedy here is that while Curtis' work eventually found a wider audience, Monger's work remains hidden away, probably buried under some old clothes in the filmmaker's closet.
"Voice Over" was originally shot in 16mm and at the time that accounted for one of the main reasons it was seen by relatively few people. As far as I know, in the States, it only played at the Bleeker Street Cinema in NYC in the 1983 which is where I saw it. Janet Maslin wrote an almost criminally moronic review in the New York Times, which gave away the film's entire plot. While totally concentrating on it's more sensational aspects, Maslin somehow managed to miss the central point of the film as well as glossing over its deeply profound originality. Film critics have no idea the damage they cause by trashing work beyond their limited view. Critics are not artists and many times they simply lack the ability to comment on or appreciate unusual works. I don't remember entirely how it was received in Europe, but I seem to remember a depressed Monger at the time, stating that some sort of controversy dogged it wherever it was presented. This was actually a sign of the films greatness! Sometimes people's first reaction to works of startling invention is to slam the work and wipe it out without seeking to explore the unconscious part of them the work has tapped into. In this case, a great work of art was literally buried. It will perhaps one day be discovered for the treasure it is. I suspect it hasn't dated in all these years and may now be more relevant than ever.
With the advent of DVD there is no excuse for this film to remain unseen. I know hardly anyone will probably read this review, but if by accident any independent DVD distributors stumble on these words looking for a lost gem, seek and ye shall find many rewards within.
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