(Reader) Long Single-Shot Scenes to Editing — The Progression of Cinema over Time

Prior to 1920, films gained criticism on whether it was appropriately categorized as cinematography for it to put so much reliance on editing. After this period film theorists began to realize how experimental it could be. Many notable films such as Star Wars (1977) and Jaws (1975) wouldn’t be possible without such tactics. The practice of editing uplifts the affectability of camera placement (cinematography) and the detail of the scenery and setting (mise-en-scene) to name a few — the overall form and style of a film can empathize through effective editing. We’ve learned that everything captured within a shot is intentional and carries the meaning of a film, arguably, more profoundly than the actual dialogue can. Imagine when the realm of possibilities extends past the initial capturing — with editing you make creative decisions that give you the charge of timing and impact. James Cameron comments, “You can almost get buried by possibilities. (FA 216)

As an example, Fim Art mentions graphic matching or matching cuts, which is an editing technique meant to capture the viewer and typically signify a jump in time seamlessly. It can range from an abrupt contrast (typically signifying confusion in the actors (view below for an example)) or even a smooth continuous transition. Editing, while a powerful tool to use, is extremely difficult to pull off in an adequate way because of the wide range of possibilities and technical graphical matches that must be made. Likewise, other techniques mentioned in the chapter come with the same obstacles. Flash-frames can be used to signify impending danger or accelerated motion changes, which are common in action films and spatial continuity editing can be used to demonstrate a character relation or change in relation to a space — such as the 180-degree system while techniques like eyeliner matching, like in Rear Window can build the viewers understanding of the space. These different approaches to editing help us understand the relationability of these choices to the film’s overall narrative form.

2 thoughts on “(Reader) Long Single-Shot Scenes to Editing — The Progression of Cinema over Time

  1. Amazing post Ajah! Your description of the history of editing, its importance, and its varying form is very well explained and defended. I especially love the emphasis on editing as a means of story telling rather than simply just forwarding the plot. Instead, cuts (or lack thereof) use their style to evoke emotion out of the audience with a specific purpose.

    However, I think the choice to shoot long single-shot scenes are equally purposeful as the awesome Scott Pilgrim example you provided. Such is the case in the ending of “A Portrait of a Lady on Fire”. Specifically, the ending theatre scene in which Marianne observes an older Heloise listening to the song they shared earlier in the movie. In a single, zooming shot, we watch Marianne’s perspective, spying in on the multiple emotional reactions Heloise experiences. As the camera slowly zooms into Heloise, we, the audience, experience all the emotions Heloise does with no interruption. This forces the audience to confront the deep passion and love between the two, even years after the main events of the movie. Had the scene been shot with different edits, perhaps with cuts to Marianne, we may not have been able to completely understand the overwhelming emotion of the scene. When I was reading your post, this connection kept coming to me and I felt motivated to comment. Great post!

    1. You’re so right!! I loved that scene in “A Portrait of a Lady on Fire” it was extremely powerful because of the technique used.

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