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Can there really be too much dialogue in a film?

Leonardo Thaci

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Hi everybody!

I recently noticed something interesting about one of my favorite films - Spotlight (2015). Despite using visual exposition, the main driver seems to be traditional dialogue. It seems to go against common storytelling advice (show, don't tell) but the dialogue scenes use in my opinion a fundamental principle that I think can be applied to almost any story. With the help of conflict-packed dialogue, Spotlight creates engaging and compelling scenes. But not just conflict between the main forces is important, layered conflict, especially with allies, seems to let you get away with dialogue-heavy scenes without boring the audience or taking away any excitement from the scenes (for me at least). I'm interested in what you think. Are there any movies without conflict? I heard that some describe "My Neighbor Totoro" as a film without conflict but could it be that the conflict is more abstract but nevertheless substantial? 




P.S Would appreciate any feedback on the video itself ?

Edited by Leonardo Thaci
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Hey brother hope that u r being fantastic.


Yes, a movie can have too much dialogue, a lot of Arab movies have too much dialogue because they assume the audience are stupid and people wouldn't get what is going on unless if it was explained to them.


I have seen "My Neighbor Totoro" long time ago, I can't say I remember it but actually I remember that the movie had a conflict. I mean the existing of the character Totoro is a conflict.

Edited by Abdul Rahman Jamous
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The amount of dialogues should match the mood and the pace of the film. Think about „Fargo“ with the „usual amount“ of dialogues. It would have ruined the film. Or think about „Pulp Fiction“ or „Beverly Hills Cop“ with less dialogues… . In other words: The amount of dialogues should be an artistic decision made at the stage of writing the script.

(This doesn’t prevent real life examples from having too much dialogues, especially YouTube-videos that try to cover their obsolescence or TV-stuff that is created for an audience that is not properly paying attention because they are cooking or playing video games at the same time.)

BTW: For me, the word „conflict“ is a little bit too limiting. Not every movie has to have an alien invasion. ? I guess that obstacles, problems or hurdles are better terms. Even „Totoro“ has these elements (mother in hospital, kids getting lost, kids fleeing from reality into a world of fantasy, …). You can also find it in documentaries about wild animals („will the zebras be able the cross the river without being eaten by crocodiles?“, „Is the eagle going to find enough nutrition for its hatchlings?“…). And in romantic movies, the problem will be more like „is he able to fight his fear of rejection and will ask the girl for a date?“ You’ll also notice that most movies have more than one problem. E.g. in most disaster movies, there’s a not only the disaster as „obstacle“, but also a family or a couple that gets separated and now wants to reunite. Or let’s take „Casablanca“: Is it about people trying to flee to the USA (which ones?)? Is it about resistance? Is it about the love of Rick and Ilsa? Or about the love of Victor and Ilsa? Or about sacrifice for a higher goal? Or about the friendship between Rick and Sam - or between Rick and Louis? Depending on your point of view, you’ll find a completely different „problem“ that is fixed in the movie - with the main „obstacle“ (WWII/Nazi dictatorship) not getting solved. 


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Most indie and student films have too much dialogue because it is cheaper to assemble the movie from couple of super long pointless dialogue scenes than to shoot meaningful short 'action scenes' where the story is actually shown instead of referred to in the dialogue. For example insteaf of showing a flashback scene the chacter tells it by words so that no extra scene needs to be shot.

This is very common in sub 2M budget range and especially for in low to no budget stuff

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Bub...make the film how you like.

If you like lots of dialogue, go for it. Either a film will work for a majority of people or not. Get some feedback on your film from the public so your film is not made in an echo chamber.

I noticed something similar with my archival work. Some people like text, others, like visuals. I'm in the visual camp. But you still may need some text, as photos can't always do it all.

But...whatever you do have the dialogue decent quality so it can be understood. See the thread about it under 'Sound' section. Lots of dialogue is subpar nowadays. Can't understand it. 

Good luck!



16mm GB (Gaumont-British) Reel 

Selection from Daniel D. Teoli Jr. Small Gauge Film Reel & Can Archive
Daniel D. Teoli Jr. Archival Collection
Daniel D. Teoli Jr. Small Gauge Film Archive
Daniel D. Teoli Jr. Advertising Archive
Daniel D. Teoli Jr. VHS Video Archive
Daniel D. Teoli Jr. Popular Culture Archive
Daniel D. Teoli Jr. Audio Archive
Daniel D. Teoli Jr. Social Documentary Photography


Edited by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.
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It depends on the movie, I suppose. I don't always agree with "show, don't tell." I am a lore junkie so I enjoy hearing the backstory of a world being presented in a film. Sure, a few quick action sequences to go along with that can be nice but I don't need a lengthy ridiculous flashback when it can be much quicker to just relay the information using a basic conversation (along with some interesting music.) If done well, I suppose either way can work.

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