I was watching Death on the Nile this morning, and after a murder takes place we the audience see that a gun is tossed into the river over the rail of a boat.

When the body is discovered, the detective instructs others to have the captain dredge the river to find the missing gun. At this point, the audience knows the directive has been given, and it's understood.

However, a few minutes later, we are shown a brief shot of the dredging taking place, and at that moment you hear an extra yell from somewhere "DREDGE THE RIVER!"

At this moment, anyone with half a brain already knows they are dredging the river - the order was given in front of us and we're literally watching them do it now. Within the reality of the movie, the extra yell makes no sense - they're already dredging, they're in the middle of it, why would someone yell "DREDGE THE RIVER!"

The purpose of the yell is because someone involved in the movie's creation felt the audience may not know what they're watching if they missed the previous related line of dialogue and are also quite dumb, and so they felt they needed this extra yell to make it extra clear.

Is there a term for that? Dialogue that makes no sense within the context of the story and is only there to condescend the audience with over-explanation of what's happening?

  • 1
    Can't remember what film I watched recently when someone in a car shouted "They're shooting at us!" as the glass was shattering under a barrage of gunfire. I'm sure both the other occupants and the audience could work that one out. Annoyed the hell out of me.
    – echo3
    Mar 30, 2022 at 19:21
  • Another perfect example. The phenomenon is as common as a dollar bill. Mar 30, 2022 at 19:35
  • "Expository dialog", in rpg videogames they're called "barks" (when npc announce their current status), but not sure that term has transitioned over to film.... Your example probably wasn't in the original script, but added later in the editing as a voice-over.
    – wetcircuit
    Mar 31, 2022 at 12:34

1 Answer 1


I am not aware of a term for this; other than explanatory dialogue; which is sometimes necessary. Perhaps the director is uncertain whether the audience understands what "dredging a river" looks like, and has only that 5 seconds of film to show the audience the dredging happened.

I agree it is redundant to yell "They're shooting at us!", but one might excuse it as a realistic expression of disbelief.

Although a movie should be "show, don't tell", sometimes that is insufficient if what is being shown is not obvious to the viewer.

You see this kind of explanatory dialogue by the page full in Sherlockian type detective stories. Police stand by clueless while Sherlock examines the corpse, examining her ankles, removing her shoe, shining a flashlight up her nose and peering in there. We are shown, but none of this makes sense until Sherlock explains it to others, Watson or the police, at length -- "This woman was drowned, look at this, then this, then this over here. She was drowned, hung upside down by her ankles, (blah blah blah)."

Some dialogue is explanatory. Some is necessary because it doesn't make psychological sense for people to remain silent. Like when being shot at, even if what they say is redundant and obvious. It would make more sense, when bullets shatter the windows, to say while instinctively ducking, "Son of a-- Frank you hit?"

I guess I'd call that "psychologically necessary" dialogue.

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