Do We Hear the City?: Voices of the Stranger in Hong Kong Cinema


This chapter attempts to examine the ethical relationship between self and other by way of focusing on the theme of estrangement in the New Hong Kong Cinema. In his study of the voice-over in cinema, Michel Chion creates a category of “acousmatic voices” or in French the acousmêtre. The acousmêtre refers to the image-voice relation in which one does not see the person one hears. Chion observes that sound film began with visualized sound but very soon it tried to experiment with acousmatic sound — voices without images, or voices divorced from images. These are not the voices of the disembodied, detached voice-over like that of documentary films because they have no personal stake in the film. This area of research has filled a lacuna in the study of cinema because the voice has often been considered as an inseparable and natural part of the image and thus it has seldom been examined as an independent category.

Written by Esther M.K. Cheung
Published in Hong Kong Screenscapes: From the New Wave to the Digital Frontier, eds. Esther M. K. Cheung, Gina Marchetti and See-Kam Tan, Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2011, pp. 17-32.