Losing a Voice in The Razor’s Edge (1984)

While I was not necessarily hoping for a voice-over to represent the narrator, a possibility we discussed in class, I’ll admit my surprise at hearing that the whole character of the narrator was not included in this film. I realized that the moments I listed as “would definitely include” if I were making the film were each centered around the narrator’s relationship with an individual character, such as the scene with the narrator and Isabel drinking ice cream soda at the drug store and really talking alone for the first time, the narrator comforting Elliot and ultimately stealing him an invitation as he is dying, and the narrator seeing Larry for the first time in years and not recognizing him. Because of the automatic exclusion of these scenes, throughout watching the film I tried to judge it as separate from the novel. If they manage to capture that same meaning or feeling in other places, is it equal to having that character, or at least a decent attempt? Though some instances had other ways to fill the gap, some were just not the same without him. He acted as a way to soften each character, making a cast of interesting or likeable figures through his lens of good spirit. As he tells Isabel, “When I’m really fond of anyone, though I deplore his wrongdoing it doesn’t make me less fond of him” (305). This carried over through his conversations and relationships with the characters to shape the reader’s view, and I felt that without him something was missing in our perception of each of the other characters.

I think that the movie had some important visual aspects in an attempt perhaps to make the characters more likeable in the absence of the narrator. For instance, viewers get to see first-hand Sophie’s grief-stricken reaction to hearing the news about the death of her family. The performance was tragic and really allowed more sympathy for her character, as opposed to the novel where readers simply hear a quick account brushed off by Isabel. Yet the film also validates Isabel’s claims about Sophie afterwards, such as in the scene where Sophie is being offensive to Gray and drinking in the car after his father’s funeral. This adds credibility to both of their positions. The film also included a fair amount showing how Isabel and Larry were affected by their split. Yet with the lack of a narrator as a confidant and friend to pull out the character of each individual, there seemed to be a missing depth.

With no narrator to reveal the inner workings of Isabel and her cleverness, and with the story now centered more on Larry’s journey, I felt Isabel and Sophie could be described by the Mulvey article we read. Mulvey quotes Boetticher, writing, “She is the one, or rather the love or fear she inspires in the hero, or else the concern he feels for her, who makes him act the way he does” (837). Not having agency to tell their perspective through the narrator gives us a shifted view of these two women, as Sophie’s conversation with him is cut all together and Isabel to me felt framed more in the sense of her love for Larry, instead of that being just one of the topics she discusses with the narrator in their chats.

Without the intellectual figure of the narrator listening to Larry’s adventures and questioning him about his philosophical findings, I found that much of the significance of his journey to find knowledge, religion, and answers was lost. Instead, the performance of this character seemed to find his answers quickly and did not feel very changed by whatever he discovered. I did feel that the few scenes that included Elliot captured his contrasting nature; he was shown to be extravagant and living the life of luxury, but also kind and welcoming to Larry and Sophie. However, without the narrator detailing his desperate social escapades versus the hospitality he shows for his true friends and family, like the others, much of Elliot’s complexity is lost.

Kelsey Kwandrans