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Author Topic: The Structure of the Movie and Film Editing  (Read 128699 times)

Offline peteinportland

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The Structure of the Movie and Film Editing
« on: January 14, 2006, 09:36:28 PM »
There has been much discussion about how this movie is structured. Many have pointed out that there definitely seems to be three acts to the movie. Others have made note of the many parallels within the movie. This is the thread to discuss anything to do with the way in which the movie is structured.
« Last Edit: May 16, 2006, 06:42:03 AM by peteinportland »

Offline mwiersma

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Re: Element: The Structure of the Movie and Film Editing
« Reply #1 on: January 15, 2006, 09:54:03 AM »
The three "sections" of the movie for me were :
Falling in love
Negotiating the terms of the love/relationship
The finality and acceptance

While some have commented on how "slow" the first section is, upon a second viewing (or more, for sure) you get all the nuanced tenderness, the yearning, and the caring for each other that develops with a subtlety that BBM seems to have perfected.  Almost from the first moment (waiting for the boss) they begin to size each other up, and they almost immediately go out drinking together.  (Would that be automatic, or are they acknowledging immediately that they will be friends, at least?)

Offline PetterG

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Re: Element: The Structure of the Movie and Film Editing
« Reply #2 on: January 15, 2006, 04:38:45 PM »
and someone has earlier mentioned that:
ACT 1 - starts with Jack looking into the mirror when he is shaving - ends that he is looking in the same mirror when they are driving in different directions after the first summer
between ACT 1 & 2 the scene with Ennis break down
ACT 2 start with the wedding and ends with the divorce
between ACT 2 & 3 the scene with Jack in the Mexican alley

and has been mentioned earlier the whole story starts with Ennis arriving in a truck and ends with him leaving in a truck

the death of Jack, phone call, visit at Jacks parents, I-swear is an epilogue
if you cannot fix it - you've gotta stand it
if you cannot stand it - you gotta fix it

Offline David

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Re: Element: The Structure of the Movie and Film Editing
« Reply #3 on: January 15, 2006, 04:47:53 PM »
I don't know where to post this, so I'll try here.

1st "Jack F---in' Twist": elated

2nd "Jack F---in' Twist": frustrated

3rd "Jack F---in' Twist": angry

No more "Jack F---in' Twist". Instead, "Jack, I swear...".
The huge sadness of the Northern plains rolled down on him.

Offline peteinportland

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Re: Element: The Structure of the Movie and Film Editing
« Reply #4 on: January 15, 2006, 10:33:52 PM »
Petter, I think you were remembering some of the comments I made.

Let me share my theory on the film structure and where it "breaks" and let me know what you guys think.

Act 1 starts and ends in the parking lot (I know there were a couple of scenes before the parking lot, but I think of those as sort of a prelude).  Then there is an interlude in the alley where Ennis deals with his grief and the screen fades to black.

ACT 2 starts and ends with Ennis and Alma standing together in a civil ceremony (marriage and then divorce). Then there is an interlude with Jack and Ennis by the trucks after Jack drives from Texas (a parallel with the scene of them by Jack's truck in the parking lot) and then Jack in an alley dealing with his grief and the screen fades to black.

Act 3 begins and ends with parents and children around a table. It starts with the Thanksgiving scenes and ends with Ennis at Jack's parents. I think the entire sequence at Ennis' trailer is the Epilogue. We do have the truck at sunset going down the highway which signals the end (thus the trailer sequence being an Epilogue).

That's my take. Of course, I have no coursework in screen writing or film studies, so maybe some pros have a different take.

Offline PetterG

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Re: Element: The Structure of the Movie and Film Editing
« Reply #5 on: January 15, 2006, 10:44:50 PM »
Petter, I think you were remembering some of the comments I made.


You have done so many intelligent comments, PiP, that I can only remember some of them.

Sorry but I didn't remember if the scene with the truck disappearing was after Jack/Ennis final meeting or if it was after Ennis visiting Jacks parents.

OT:
prelude but epilogue, why not epilude or prologue?

in Swedish we use pre/post-ludium for music and pro/epi-log for text (plays)
« Last Edit: January 15, 2006, 10:49:56 PM by PetterG »
if you cannot fix it - you've gotta stand it
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Offline chiaros

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Re: Element: The Structure of the Movie and Film Editing
« Reply #6 on: January 16, 2006, 08:05:12 AM »
Vince and PeteIP,

Both of your formats are very appealing and agree in broad outlines to my personal framing of the film.  I have no formal training at all in theatre theory. However, I find it wonderful that the story and film affects one so much that the sense of the structure comes over without that struggle to get to the  bones that accompanies any similar effort with lesser stories or film-making.  Mind you, it wasn't immediately obvious - at least to me - but after a few viewings, brooding about it and gentle mental shaking the story seems to settle naturally into this wonderful, symmetrical, structure.

For myself, I tend to think of:
--The opening scene of the truck (from the right) and Ennis hopping out as the "prelude" (yes, I like the musicology term better here) as well as the beginning "marker".
--Act one as the start of the parking lot scene till the fade out after Ennis throws up in the alley, with the two mirror scenes as the symmetrical markers of the commencement and resolution of the Act.  The alley scene is the "resolution".
--Act two for me is pretty much the same as PeteIP's, except that I think of the wedding and divorce as the two symmetrical markers.  Jack driving up and his spurning feels like a "fugal coda" to me [reflecting the marriage in reverso], with the Mexico scene the "resolution".
--My Act three is also pretty much PeteIP's, but with Ennis's driving away back to the right as both the final coda and the overall end marker.  However, there is no true "symmetrical markers" for me in this Act, because this is the Act when the TRANSFIGURATION occurs to Ennis at Jack's house right at the end.  Then, the coda (him in the truck), leading to the...
--Epilogue, the entire trailer scene, where the fruits of his transfiguration finally ripen in his realization of Jack's true love for him.

Personally, I also see an overriding arc to the story which I seem to find important for myself - the touchstones of the film, as it were.  The arc starts with the second night in the tent, the realization and crystallization of love; the apogee, the final parting (the whole final morning) with Jack looking after Ennis as he drives away as the "fracture"; the final touchstone, Ennis finding the shirts in the closet, the realization of loss and the point of transfiguration.

Sigh.  I feel emotional just thinking about this.

Cheers,

Chiaros.

p.s. apologies to the musicologists here.
INTP

Offline ottoblom

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Re: Element: The Structure of the Movie and Film Editing
« Reply #7 on: January 16, 2006, 12:46:17 PM »
Something I'm very interested in is how there is almost a randomness to the scenes--some have compared it to thumbing through a photo album.  In going back to the original story you can see how Proulx miraculously conjers up her meditation on these characters over 20 years out of snippets and fragments.  THe movie is a bit more fleshed out, but has a similar random, almost haphazard quality.  This is especially apparent in the Brokeback Mountain segment which compresses two months, not twenty years, and where the quick jumps between campfire, sheep, stream, are very apparent.  I guess this is where the comment in the very laudatory New Yorker review comes from that this part of the movie is both sluggish and hectic.  (I don't find it to be either one)  But I think this is where the movie establishes a style which it carries all the way through.  By the way, this randomness I'm trying to describe isn't something I dislike at all--I think that's where the heightened realism and hypnotic quality comes from.  But I also think a lot of the criticism comes from that also.  For those unlucky enough not to be drawn into the story, it makes BBM seems episodic and boring.

The meditative quality probably also contributes both to its impact and lack of same.The story has incident but no plot to speak of.  So I don't feel like there's much underlying structure beyond the three acts described above.  The story unfolds organically.  If you're open to it, it drills deep into your brain.  If it doesn't work for you, there's not much traditional story telling to latch on to--just pretty scenery to look at.
« Last Edit: January 16, 2006, 02:52:42 PM by ottoblom »

Offline chiaros

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Re: Element: The Structure of the Movie and Film Editing
« Reply #8 on: January 17, 2006, 07:55:44 AM »
Something I'm very interested in is how there is almost a randomness to the scenes--some have compared it to thumbing through a photo album.  In going back to the original story you can see how Proulx miraculously conjers up her meditation on these characters over 20 years out of snippets and fragments.  THe movie is a bit more fleshed out, but has a similar random, almost haphazard quality.  This is especially apparent in the Brokeback Mountain segment which compresses two months, not twenty years, and where the quick jumps between campfire, sheep, stream, are very apparent.  I guess this is where the comment in the very laudatory New Yorker review comes from that this part of the movie is both sluggish and hectic.  (I don't find it to be either one)  But I think this is where the movie establishes a style which it carries all the way through.  By the way, this randomness I'm trying to describe isn't something I dislike at all--I think that's where the heightened realism and hypnotic quality comes from.  But I also think a lot of the criticism comes from that also.  For those unlucky enough not to be drawn into the story, it makes BBM seems episodic and boring.

The meditative quality probably also contributes both to its impact and lack of same.The story has incident but no plot to speak of.  So I don't feel like there's much underlying structure beyond the three acts described above.  The story unfolds organically.  If you're open to it, it drills deep into your brain.  If it doesn't work for you, there's not much traditional story telling to latch on to--just pretty scenery to look at.

To me, the "randomness" is more present in the book - but only to a point.  The film, as enabled by Ang Lee, is less so.  It seems to me that the book draws upon you, the reader, to link many things together and to summon the images and threads that meld it all together.  (Isn't that what one does in reading a story, anyway?  It is a testament to the abiding power of the written word that a book is more effective at engaging your mind and imagination and making you think)  The thought occurs to me that another way to think about this is to consider it as a fractal (apologies to the mathematicians and physicists amongst us - I'm sure I'm shaky on this) which seems random but really is not, with a hidden organization beneath it.  Perhaps another way to consider this is to think of the difference between "the woods" and "the trees".  Is it possible that some tend to notice the trees a little too much and are not drawing back to see the woods? Or are not willing to engage their imaginations enough to conceptualize something more beyond the trees?  Please note that I'm merely throwing these thoughts out as musings, without any intent beyond that.

In a general sense I concur that the basic "three acts" postulated both here and, as far back as in the old board, are sufficient.  All the other details, if valid, are "enrichments", subject to interpretation and argument.

Best,

Chiaros.
INTP

Offline peteinportland

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Re: Element: The Structure of the Movie and Film Editing
« Reply #9 on: January 17, 2006, 09:37:39 AM »
Here is something I posted elsewhere which I think speaks to the idea of "snapshots."

"I will also point out something someone on the Board brought to my attention. Before we tighten in on the parking lot and trailer, we see the train go by, and we get quick snapshots of Ennis, like with a camera, between the moving cars of the train. The sound in this moment is great: the train is barrelling down the tracks, and we hear: click, click; click, click; click, click--just like the shutter on a camera (and with each click, click, we get a snapshot of Ennis). IMO, Ang is signifying to us that we are going to see a series of snapshots that will put together a story. He warns us not to look for long, linear scenes, but to instead be prepared for snapshots of the character's lives that will ultimately tell the story. (And a film student or industry professional might have a better interpretation of this.)"

I also don't think everything else is quite so random. I think there is a conscious effort to show a host of parallel scenes, most, unlike the Thanksgiving scenes, not shown back to back.
« Last Edit: January 17, 2006, 09:42:20 AM by peteinportland »

Offline glacier76

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Re: Element: The Structure of the Movie and Film Editing
« Reply #10 on: January 20, 2006, 04:00:44 AM »
A reviewer for the Vancouver Sun stated that BBM shifts the romantic movie paradigm by having the two leads fall in love very early in the movie, unlike most movies like, say, Pride & Prejudice. I don't know how rare that is (I'm thinking of Cold Mountain right now), but it is rare to see the leads marry other people after falling in love with each other.

She also states that whereas most westerns are about men battling the elements to protect society, in BBM, the elements are inviting and comforting while society is harsh and unforgiving. I must confess to not watching too many westerns, so I don't know how true that is.

What I notice is that Ang doesn't use subtitles to inform the viewer what year it is or to mention a current event to let the viewer know what time it is. No mention of the Vietnam War, no mention of disco, no mention of Dallas (although Lureen is sooo Sue Ellen). It's as if time stood still.

Offline DeeGilles

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Re: Element: The Structure of the Movie and Film Editing
« Reply #11 on: January 21, 2006, 01:08:31 AM »
What I notice is that Ang doesn't use subtitles to inform the viewer what year it is or to mention a current event to let the viewer know what time it is. No mention of the Vietnam War, no mention of disco, no mention of Dallas (although Lureen is sooo Sue Ellen). It's as if time stood still.



The shifts in time are very subtle, but they are there.  You have to listen to the tv's,and or radios that may  be playing, as well as look watching  for other visual clues such as signs or the post mark on the  post cards. 
Wish I could think of a specific example, but it's been 6 whole days since I've seen the movie, so I've forgotten a little. 



dee
I wish I knew how to quit ya.

Offline peteinportland

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Re: Element: The Structure of the Movie and Film Editing
« Reply #12 on: January 21, 2006, 01:50:56 AM »
We hear some dates like the divorce in 1975. We see the date on a banner at the dance with Jack, Lureen, Lashawn, Randall. We hear/see stuff on the TV (at Thanksgiving). There are other examples.

I would like at some point to examine the bookends Ang uses so well.

Some examples:

Truck driving the winding road at dawn in one direction to start the movie and then at dusk in another direction to end it
Jack and Ennis snuggle in tent during first night together (facing right) and then in last night together (facing left)
Ennis in alley with light in front of him and Jack in alley with light behind him
Bringing sheep up mountain and crossing stream and down mountain and crossing stream

What other bookends do you guys see? By bookend, I mean a very specific parallel scenes that show very similar actions in different directions to make them look like bookends.

BTW, thanks to Lynn for coining this term and the snuggle in tent bookends and to another user not remembered for the alley bookends.

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Re: Element: The Structure of the Movie and Film Editing
« Reply #13 on: January 21, 2006, 02:08:56 AM »
I would like at some point to examine the bookends Ang uses so well.
How convenient! I was just working on a bookend post... ;)

Compare the scene in which Ennis and Jack say goodbye at the end of the summer with the goodbye scene at their last meeting, prior to the big confrontation ("I wish I could quit you"). In the first, Ennis is on the left, facing right, Jack is on the right, hand on the open truck door. Both Jack and the truck are facing left. This is the first goodbye.

These positions are reversed for their last meeting (the second and final goodbye). Ennis is now on the right, facing left, and Jack is now on the left, once again standing at the open truck door. But here, Jack looks  angry and frustrated, not hopeful and sad as in the first scene. In both scenes, Ennis is hunched over, hat pulled down to hide himself.

Offline chiaros

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Re: Element: The Structure of the Movie and Film Editing
« Reply #14 on: January 21, 2006, 10:31:21 AM »

I would like at some point to examine the bookends Ang uses so well.

Some examples:

Truck driving the winding road at dawn in one direction to start the movie and then at dusk in another direction to end it
Jack and Ennis snuggle in tent during first night together (facing right) and then in last night together (facing left)
Ennis in alley with light in front of him and Jack in alley with light behind him
Bringing sheep up mountain and crossing stream and down mountain and crossing stream

What other bookends do you guys see? By bookend, I mean a very specific parallel scenes that show very similar actions in different directions to make them look like bookends.

BTW, thanks to Lynn for coining this term and the snuggle in tent bookends and to another user not remembered for the alley bookends.



How convenient! I was just working on a bookend post... ;)

Compare the scene in which Ennis and Jack say goodbye at the end of the summer with the goodbye scene at their last meeting, prior to the big confrontation ("I wish I could quit you"). In the first, Ennis is on the left, facing right, Jack is on the right, hand on the open truck door. Both Jack and the truck are facing left. This is the first goodbye.

These positions are reversed for their last meeting (the second and final goodbye). Ennis is now on the right, facing left, and Jack is now on the left, once again standing at the open truck door. But here, Jack looks  angry and frustrated, not hopeful and sad as in the first scene. In both scenes, Ennis is hunched over, hat pulled down to hide himself.


My two cents worth...

I had hesitated to bring this up, in case it provoked any mutterings about, um, "cultural impositions", but it had occurred to me early on that there are elements of classical chinese couplets in the film, as well as aspects of classical chinese architecture in it.  The film is indeed a true reflection of the original story but its translation to film incorporated this structure and all these details in it (which I alluded to above) which we see... (at least for those of us so inclined)  Perhaps having Ang Lee as the director may have some relevance...?

The "bookends" we are talking about in many ways look like the two halves of a classic chinese couplet (a form of chinese poetry).  Ever see those chinese characters on the two pillars of a chinese gateway or arch, with a "theme" on the top of the arch held between the two pillars of the gateway?  One dominant form of these couplets is where we have mirror-image symmetry between the two parts (as bilateral symmetry) - but not only that, they have word-type and word-order symmetry: i.e. we have noun-noun, verb-verb, adjective-adjective correspondence between the words (characters, actually) in the two halves of the couplet.  Often, too, we have "tonal correspondance" between them - this is hard to conceptualize in English - but if one is aware of the different "tones" in the pronounciation of chinese words, then the "bilateral symmetry" includes, for example, starting with a "high tone" and descending to a "low tone" in the first half, then starting with a "low tone" and ascending to a "high tone" in the second half.  Of course, the two halves have the same number of characters.  Here's a pdf file where this structure is illustrated: (see the "chinese literature" part):  www.math.nus.edu.sg/aslaksen/gem-projects/maa/0304-2-03-Symmetry_in_Chinese_Arts.pdf

In this regard, I think one could envision all the examples PiP and lynn have already given in the format of a couplet...

If one continued these analogies, I wonder if the image (as an example) of the front gate framing the inner (second) gate of this place might also stir some flickers of recognition... http://dm.hnu.cn/english/02architecture/jx.html

Certainly these elements of symmetry are universal to all cultures - it merely strikes me that the additional correspondences that I mention above seem more pronounced (and are innate to and hard to translate) in a certain sense in chinese poetry.  (some other random links, NOT at all definitive and not being promoted by me...   www.nysun.com/article/24770www.webdelsol.com/pbq/issues/65/LianTimeless.htm  ;  www.chinese-poems.com/faq.html )

It is dangerous to over-analyze these things and I don't mean to imply that this suggestion of overtones of chinese couplets and architecture is anything more than just that - a suggestion. They are musings on my part.  For all we know, none of this ever ran through Ang Lee's mind. But for what it's worth, if there is anything to this additional reading of the "bookends" (as well as other stuff in the film), it might also be thought of as a universal realization of a story incorporating elements of Western iconography, Occidental vernacular and Oriental symbolism?

More later,

Chiaros.
INTP