(Reader) The Role of Editing in Film and Making Editing Memorable

If you think about the aspects of a film as if they were a band, let’s say, you could think of Mise-en-scene as the lyrics or chords, laying out the scene and the tone. The cinematography could be the guitar, smoothly in tune with the lead singer, who would be the narrative of the film. One member this band strongly relies on, who does their job so well they sometimes go unnoticed, is the drums. The drums are what keeps the rhythm and adds beats, easily changing the flow of the music. The drummer speeds and slows the tempo. The drummer for this imaginary band of film aspects is the editing of a film. Of course, all of this is relative, I can barely play the guitar, there aren’t truly roles assigned in a band like this, and there are so many more important aspects of film. I just wanted to use this as a more tangible example of how editing affects a film. 

Before I became interested in film, I had never noticed how much editing controls a movie. Part of the purpose of editing, in my opinion, and in most cases, is to control the continuity of a film, to go unnoticed. Editing guides the viewer through the perspective of the filmmaker, allowing the viewer not to move, not to break their gaze when switching from shot to shot. Editing cuts down parts of a story that could be dragged on throughout a scene. The textbook (Film Art 12th ed.) describes a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” in which the film cuts from multiple perspectives and POVs (FA 218). The textbook uses this as an example where if Hitchcock had used one single shot, with the camera panning from angle to angle, it would have reduced the speed at which the story is told. If the film was set up as a play, with everyone spread around to fit in one take, keeping the speed of the film, there would be details the audience might not pay attention to. That example provides the need for the editing, to cut down the fluff and keep the audience from losing the plot. This is Good editing, the kind that goes unnoticed, keeping the rhythm of the film. That begs the question, what would be great editing?

I think great editing is not just used by the editor of the film, but used to make artistic choices in hand with the filmmaker. When filmmakers use editing to their advantage, for example, isolating and magnifying elements of the story, that could make an already good film stand out even more, becoming a memorable film. 

A film I want to recognize for its editing is “Aftersun.” On first watch of this movie, the editing  made it feel like I was watching the home videos of someone close to me. The movie starts out with pixelated clips from a camcorder, interpolated with dark scenes from a nightclub blasting music. It’s a jarring mix. The editing breaks the continuity of the scenes, taking the viewer to a nonexistent plane of the main character’s memory, both as a child and as an adult, while cutting back to the current time. A lot of times a scene might focus on a shot of an object while the main characters speak, cutting to different and discontinuous angles, almost like a wandering eye around the room, a child’s curiosity. This editing, while not the most unique, not super complicated, is eye catching, and once you watch the movie it helps you understand the effect of nostalgia on the characters, the ways in which memories exist in our minds and are interpolated themselves with existing media you might have of them. It doesn’t take nuanced and fanciful techniques to make the editing of a film noticeable and stand out, it takes a collaboration of editor and filmmaker to create continuity and discontinuity. 

This is one of the ending sequences of the film, in which a daughter dances with her dad on vacation. This scene is made so much more emotional in the context of the film, not through dialogue, but through its use of editing and cinematography together. Watch at your own risk iif you plan on seeing the full movie. If you don’t want any spoilers, feel free to only watch the first thirty seconds, and or the clip below this one from a movie I enjoyed recently called “Strange Brew”

What I think this scene does really well is transition from Hosehead the dog being told what he needs to do to Hosehead getting where he needs to be. This really shows how fast he can fly. I can’t believe they caught this on camera, I wonder if this is a drone shot.

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