Does anyone else find ‘cinematic time’ interesting?
The contrast between action in film, time in reality, and how this is created within a narrative has always interested me – especially if you’re a fiction writer, scriptwriter or filmmaker. I was thinking about it this morning, how do filmmaker’s explain to an audience that the events they’re watching are happening hours, days, weeks etc, and still make it believable?
What if you have two scenes with the same characters both on the same location happening in the morning time, but on different days? Or one scene happening the morning on Saturday followed with a second scene on Sunday evening?
In a novel this is far more easier to explain, whereas in film, a character either has to announce the time and place of the scene, or insert a fade-to-black or dissolve to indicate this, although I think many directors and writers are loathe to use these.
Perhaps ‘cinematic time’ is all relative to narrative and more crucially film editing. An artform which both Kubrick and Alan Moore have described as unique to filmmaking. I think filmmaker love to experiment to time, but it is concept which has evolved since the silent era and the golden age of Hollywood. I think it was The Great Train Robbery that first used an ‘intercut’ edit to switch between two seperate scenes happening simultaneously. I imagine this must have been extremely confusing to watch, and explains the necessity of screen titles to explain that the next scene is happening ‘Meanwhile, somewhere else…..’. Although, such an elipsis has existed in literature for decades. Perhaps, this explains the ‘genuis’ of Griffith, Murnau and Lang, who were literary and educated storytellers.
More recent films like Cloverfield, Birdman, the Russian Ark and Buried, have show events which actually appear to occur in ‘real time’ we are watching it happen, and have tried to subtract editing, much the way Hitchcock had attempted for his film Rope, or more famously the tv series 24, and Mike Figgis Dogme style Timecode. It’s also worthing mentioning here, the sense of unedited real time happening in Birdman and Revenant, seems inspired by Welles achievement with the same effect for Touch of Evil, The Trial and Othello.
Recently, I’d watched been impressed by an unusual thriller called Under Suspicion, which like Twelve Angry Men, appeared to happen in ‘real time’, but used flashback in which Gene Hackman would remember events about a crime, Rashomon style, and Morgan Freeman would appear in the flashback to discuss it. This almost sounds Inception.
The other film about time which I like is Gus Van Sant’s Elephant, which relied upon a Rashomon-style multi-person narrative, but looks and feels like it was made by Kubrick. The sense of time passing, and characters restricted by their space and POV, is visually brilliant, like Taxi Driver from four different angles.