Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Knight of Cups

“You think when you reach a certain age, things will start making sense. Then you find out you’re just as lost as you were before.”
That was the key. That was the passage that unlocked Knight of Cups for me. We hear the words midway through Terrence Malick’s latest visual poem, by the actor Brian Dennehy, who occasionally appears in Knight of Cups as Christian Bale’s father. This being a Malick film, Dennehy gently eases the words out in a melancholic voiceover. Malick’s voiceovers are obscure, lyrical passages. They blend together, subtly evoking emotion. It could be easy to miss the Dennehy passage quoted above, but when I heard it, Knight of Cups suddenly made sense. Everything clicked. I understood the world. I understood the tone, the feeling. I understood the plight of the main character, Rick (Bale). I understood what Malick was trying to say, even if my interpretation wasn’t what Malick was exactly trying to say.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Hunger: A Shot-for-Shot Breakdown

The amount of editing cuts in a film depends entirely on the way the filmmaker chooses to tell the story. Though it’s hard to calculate the average amount of cuts for all films, most modern action films typically contain upwards of 3,000 cuts – the idea is that by cutting so often, especially in an intense action sequence, viewers will feel the intended frantic energy of the scene. Other genres, like melodramatic foreign films, typically contain less than 500 cuts. Perhaps here, the intention is to hold shots longer as a way of maintaining tension.

The first time I saw Steve McQueen’s first feature, Hunger, I was immediately taken with how the film only cut when it was absolutely necessary. So I thought it’d be fun to break Hunger down and examine every shot/editing cut in the film. Admittedly, this was a risky idea. I’ve never done anything like this before – would my comments grow horribly redundant? Would I literally have something to say about every shot? Ultimately, I found that the only time I was being redundant was when I described a series of shots that lasted for less than a second, so I decided to occasionally leave descriptions for those shots blank.

The result is an immersive exercise for those interested in cinematography, editing, and, of course, Hunger itself. I hope you like what I discovered within the carefully constructed world of Hunger.