Comparison of the Editing Styles in Birdman and Before Sunrise

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Purpose of this extended Essay is to investigate how filmmakers edit their films in order to present a visceral reality by doing so I intent to develop an understanding of editing techniques and styles used to portray time and space in film narratives. I will analyse Richard Link later’s Before Sunrise (1995) and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Birdman (2014) focusing on elements of film editing that affects how time and reality is portrayed along the film’s narrative.

This essay consists of an introduction to the potted history of film editing, evaluated textual analysis of Before Sunrise and Birdman in the main body that highlights the presence of film editing techniques demonstrating the director’s vision of time and space within film, which is summarized in the conclusion. Nowadays, the pre and post production of a film has developed extremely. “Editing has become various and technological at a higher level”, as it is also called the “invisible art”. The viewers are becoming more engaged over time, with the use of new editing techniques that have been introduced by many men including Lev Kuleshov.

This essay is going to investigate the different editing styles used to achieve the director’s vision oftime reality in film. I will be doing a textual analysis on two films ‘Birdman’ January 2, 2015 and ‘Before Sunrise’ April 20, 1995. The analysis will consist of the editing, cinematography and narrative of the two films.

‘Birdman’ or ‘The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance’, is a 2014 American black comedy film directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. The film tells the story of an actor (Michael Keaton) - famous for portraying an iconic superhero that struggles with his career in a Broadway play. In the days leading up to the debut night, he battles his ego and attempts to recover his family and his career only to find himself losing his mind until the point that he is shown to have taken the life and powers of the character he had played before, the ‘Birdman’. It was considered to be one of the most “engrossing, imaginative movies of the year by many critics”. It was highly commended for its continuity editing giving a sense that the movie was recorded all in one go.

The movie earned a Golden Globe nomination for ‘best screenplay’ and it received nine Academy Awards nominations for ‘best picture’. The film was shot in New York City during the spring of 2013 with a budget of $16. 5 million, followed by a wide release on November 14, grossing more than $103 million worldwide. ‘Birdman’ is a film that has central cinematic conceit as was filmed in a single take and all of the short takes from the film makes it “feel faster” because they constantly present the viewer with new information.

‘Before Sunrise’ is a 1995 American romantic drama film directed by Richard Link later. The film tells the story of a young American man, Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and a young French woman, Céline(Julie Delpy). They meet on a train to Vienna and decide to spend the night together, as they are enjoying the night they promise to meet each other at the same place one year later when they depart back to their own homes. This film was “considered minimalistic since not much happens aside from walking and talking”. The movie had a strongly positive reception from critics and also had the sequels in 2004 ‘Before Sunset’ and 2013 ‘Before Midnight’. “The film grossed $1. 4 million in 363theaters on its opening weekend, and went on to make $5. 5 million, more than double its $2. 5 million budget”. Editing is essential in film when creating and establishing the narrative of time and space. This film technique is what describes the relationship between of shots such as the graphic, rhythmic, spatial and temporal, as well as how they are combined throughout to create a narrative. Every editor and filmmakers have their own ideas when using editing, usually the cinema industry tends to favor the idea of continuity or the idea of creating a chronological narrative because it lets the audience to suspend disbelief without trouble and effort.

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Differently, editing might be employed to request the intellectual participation of the audience or in order to emphasize their work piece in a reflective way, they can achieve this through different styles of editing. Graphic match is a technique that helps establish a relationship between two disconnected scenes when transitioning one shot while the frames have compositional elements. Another technique is the shot/ reverse shot where multiple shots are edited together alternating characters, usually used to show both sides of a conversation. Another editing example is the representation of distorted reality done by the manipulation of time and space. This allows editors to compress or extend time. In addition, the jump cut is a type of a concise editing technique where a shot looks suddenly interrupted. This can be done with the change in background but the individuals stay intact, or the opposite.

In 1985, the Lumiere brothers created Cinematograph which was a device that could capture, record and project motion in picture. Later on in 1908, D. W Griffith's’ film ‘For Love of Gold’ contained the first continuity cut in the history of film. He realized that emotions could be portrayed by the use of different camera angles and pace of editing since the making of the film didn’t only depend on the acting of the actors. He had been given the credit of discovering the close up shot. Along his journey’s a director, Griffith's film ‘The Clansman’ 1915 included camera techniques such as panoramic longshots, iris effect, still shots, cross cutting and panning shots, such techniques that are still used to in today’s films. The films were more interesting for the audience with the use of sound. In early 1920, a soviet director caller Lev Muleshoe created an effect of a montage within the film that allowed the audience to have a better response. There are two main types of editing, analogue and digital.

Analogue editing was used before editing on a computer and then it would be sent through a machine and streamed. The digital editing is the editing on the computer. This faster and more effective way of editing happens through different programs like Adobe Premiere, iMovie and others. The footage is put onto the timeline, cut and pasted into a planned order and then special effects are added. Overall, the purpose of editing is to allow films to have a flow so the audience is interested by what they are watching. It also allows the construction of narrative of time by using different camera angles, pace and narrative structures.

In this section of the essay I will be looking at two completely distinct directors that produced two films and through the techniques of editing they were able to create realistic scenes in different ways, ones that appear to be vivid and real. The first movie and director that I will be analyzing ‘Birdman’ by Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu and the second pair of movie and director is ‘Before Sunrise’ by Richard Link later. Both director’s major aims are to effectively portray reality in its true essence and time space, and for this essay I will closely analyses how they include continuous, static shots and long scenes to portray daily life, in the most realistic way possible.

In the film ‘Birdman’, Gonzalez uses a variety of editing techniques to present a continuous reality for Birdman’s audience. For instance, the director mainly uses ‘invisible cuts’ to give the effect of continuity editing. This effect attempts to join two frames together in order to completely hide the transition from the audience. We can see this when Lesley, (the blond actress in the image that8follows) is walking in a corridor and one of the workers from the theater walks in front of her.

Once the men have passed in front of her, he completely covers her body and she shows up with different hair style and her body appears to be positioned a little bit more forward, as seen in the following image: Gonzalez is able to hide the cuts through editing by making sure Lesley was in the same position after the men walked in front of her. He did this in order to maintain temporal and spatial consistency to preserve mental coherence as well as to create a visual continuity between the cuts. At the same time this effect allows the audience to see a steady scene that seems aesthetically pleasing, immersive and doesn’t cause cognitive fatigue meaning that the audience doesn’t have to adapt to new circumstances every single time. However, even if the audience can deduce a cut has occurred, they would have a hard time pinpointing the exact moment , creating this idea of an ongoing scene emphasizing the up bring of the character of Lesley to life.

To conclude, the cuts are important because they allows the director to portray a single-shot scene letting the audience to be able to see what is happening through the camera's point of view and this makes it more realistic, and thus immerses the audience in the film. Moreover, Gonzalez includes a blue filter to draw the viewer's attention to the background, allowing the cuts to be less perceived as Lesley moves. The color blue also represents technology, even though the film was created to present neutrality, editing is still part of it and the director gives hidden hints that editing has been added through physical technology representations on the frames. To highlight the significance of this framing, the rule of thirds is also applied where the points of interest, in this case Lesley’s face, is placed in the intersection of the lines of rule of thirds.

This techniques transmits comfort to the audience by having sections of focus as well as the centered section of the frame is maintained clear. In addition, Gonzalez is also able to make cuts in between scenes by moving the camera from a bar setting into a dark setting, and after that adding the effect cut to black. He uses this technique as natural way to make the scene become darker and reach a black screen without having to add special effects of fade-to-black.

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