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Last year’s Best Picture Oscar went to Birdman. While the film has some great performances that had a lot to do with the win, another reason it was so popular among movies fans was that it was technically impressive. The movie appears to run as one continuous shot with zero edits. You probably already guessed that it wasn’t actually filmed that way. However, a new video goes into the details of how the cuts between takes were hidden to the audience. Check it out.
The Film Theorists YouTube channel uses their Frame by Frame show to dive into the individual frames to show you where the cuts actually were even though you probably didn’t notice them when you saw the movie. It turns out motion blur is the filmmaker's’ friend. It also digs into the history of hiding cuts, going back to Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope as an example of an early film that did the same thing. While Rope only used a single method to hide the breaks, Birdman uses several that prevent the audience from seeing where one take ends and the next begins.
While Hitchcock’s cuts are a little more obvious than those of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, we have to give Hitchcock credit. He only made cuts when the camera ran out of film, meaning that his scenes are 10-minutes-long in between those moments where he blacks out the screen. This makes the whole thing not just technically impressive but theatrically as well, as all the actors had to get their parts right for 10 minutes at a time. Any screw up meant returning to the beginning. Iñárritu doesn’t run his scenes nearly that long, but he does use a variety of different methods to hide the cuts and does so in a way that makes them much less obvious. We’re not taking anything away from his actors. They actually do a better job than Hitchcock’s in making the scene feel continuous.
This is far from the first time that Birdman and Rope have been put side by side as the comparison is obvious. It’s a comparison that Iñárritu wishes people would stop making, because he doesn’t actually care very much for Rope. To be fair, the Birdman director doesn’t have a problem with the film’s filming techniques, rather that it just isn’t a very good movie. The film deals with two young men who kill a classmate in order to see if they can get away with the perfect murder. Jimmy Stewart plays the former professor the men use as their test to see if they can fool him. The majority of the film is the three actors talking at length.
Does the analysis of hidden cuts destroy the film’s magic, or is it educational to see how it was done? Let us know your thoughts.