“I had sex today, holy shit” proclaims 15 year old Minnie in the opening line of The Diary of a Teenage Girl (2015) as she walks on air through the park on her walk home. At home, Minnie finds a tape recorder in the storage closet and creates an audio diary. “My name is Minnie Getz. I’m a fifteen year old living in San Francisco California, recording this onto a cassette tape because my life has gotten really crazy of late and I need to tell someone about it.” Minnie’s first use of the tape recorder begins the story of The Diary of a Teenage Girl. Minnie continues to use the recorder to make an audio diary of her experiences throughout the film. These recordings are used as a narration device.
Films use narration devices such as this one to avoid having an uninvolved narrator or a narrator that is regarding their story in retrospect. Minnie, as an active narrator, is able to express herself to the audience as the film goes on. The Diary of a Teenage Girl is a character study. There is no scene in the film without the protagonist Millie. Millie’s narration conveys how she perceives the events around her, which helps the audience understand a teenage girl’s point of view. In Forrest Gump (1994), Forrest tells the story of his life to passersby sitting next to him on a bus stop bench. His dialogue with the various people serves as the narration for the film.
When Forrest leaves the bench to go to Jenny’s apartment, the story has arrived at the present day and the narration ends. At the end of the film, Forrest’s speech to Jenny’s gravestone is used as another brief narration device. In Forrest Gump, the picture returns to Forrest sitting on the bench with various commuters, and similarly in The Diary of a Teenage Girl, we return to Minnie sitting on her bed talking into her tape recorder to remind the audience that this is the source of the film’s narration.
Both The Diary of a Teenage Girl and Forrest Gump are films adapted from novels. The narration in both films is directly sourced from the novel and the visuals serve to accompany the narration. The Diary of a Teenage Girl is based on an illustrated novella with the same title by Phoebe Gloekner. Films based of books often rely on narration to convey story, which can sometimes result in weak filmmaking, but narration devices such as the ones in The Diary of a Teenage Girl and Forrest Gump help to better translate literature to motion pictures.