Another film that had a limited release and then was quickly lost to public view! Now once again thanks to BFI Flipside series we have the chance to see Christopher Monger's controversial trip into darkness Voice Over (1883). This was his second feature film, the first being the experimental 1979 thriller Repeater (more of that later) which he also wrote and directed.
Fats Bannerman is a successful host of a local late night radio programme called Thus Engaged that he both writes and presents. Its main protagonist is a Jane Austin Regency type character called Elizabeth. The programme has a cult following amongst a young teenage/student audience but not for artistic reasons as he finds out when a reporter tells him that they only listen to make fun of him and his broadcast. Bannerman's life is like a nightmare; he is estranged from his daughters, divorced from his wife, drinks too much and lives in an old run down warehouse down by the docks, before this type of area became fashionable and expensive. Even when he is picked up by two sexy young women and taken back to their flat and plied with alcohol, it all goes pear shaped when the twosome set upon him and give him a good hiding, denting his ego more than actually inflicting physical pain!
His pitiful sad and lonely life is reflected in his radio programme and following the encounter with his two attackers he gradually changes the format of his show from Jane Austin to Mary Shelley, much to the disgust of the station but surprisingly the ratings increase. One evening returning home late he finds a badly beaten woman and transports her back to his flat. Against advice he decides to take care of her and nurse her back to health washing and dressing her in new clothes that he has purchased. Although the woman he calls Bitch (Bish Nethercote) is still alive it is obvious she is in deep shock, never actually speaking. Again Bannerman transcribes this entire incident into the script for his radio show. The success of the radio programme leads to an offer from another company, RDOV, which means that he can purchase a wee house for the pair to live in, but his increased remuneration does not seem to run to furniture or a new t-shirt!
We witness how Fats Bannerman mental state deteriorates and how he has no physical contact with the girl even when she gets in the bath with him, he treat’s her like a real life 'Elizabeth' and as we watch this extremely complex character descend into the dark depths of his mental anguish we are continually forced to ask the question - will he give into his hidden impulses?
Monger produces a searching look into the mind of Bannerman in a study of loneliness, detachment and depression. He also proves to some extent that we are our own worst enemy’s and can truly f**k ourselves up without any outside help!
Christopher Monger is a Welsh born director who is probably best known for the 1995 movie The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain which stared Hugh Grant and the British character actor Ian McNeice. It's McNeice who stars in and completely dominates Voice Over playing the central role of Fats Bannerman. He is an actor whose face you will recognise instantly but probably not his name. Incidentally the soundtrack uses music composed by Franz Schubert to great effect.
As part of the Blu-ray/DVD release we get a chance to see Monger’s debut film Repeater (1979). This strangely compelling wee film attempts to mimic films of the French New Wave. The basic story is about a woman (Chris Abrahams) who walks into a police station and confesses to a murder but the police do not believe her. She befriends a hit man played by John Cassady, who was also in Voice Over, this black comedy/thriller gets a little ‘of the wall’ the BFI describe it as having ‘an unorthodox narrative’ which does in fact sum up this wee movie. One small point, if you concentrate you may see comedian Alexei Sayle in his debut feature film.