Elements of Film
Temporal Aspects of Film
One aspect of film that I have always noticed is how temporal issues are introduced and resolved. A basic temporal issue is trying to show some one aging without making you sit there for the 30 or so years to watch them get older and then carryout explaining that crucial moment in the character’s life. This temporal aspect is resolved with make up or casting two actors for the same character. In some movies, like “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, Brad Pitt had extensive make up on but other props and CGI also had played a big role in creating a character that aged backwards. This is just one of many examples of tools that writers, producers, and directors can use in just any ol’ film that follows basic temporal rules. These rules follow basic human natural tendencies with time. For example, most movies will have the events in a specific sequence that follows the patterns of our daily lives. For example, one might eat breakfast before going to work, and then go out to lunch, which is later followed by coming home for dinner. However, there are a few movies that manipulate the temporal aspects of a story to create something more interesting, or allow for the story to play out in a particular way. I have chosen three movies to discuss that incorporate these types of temporal issues in very different ways, which are Memento, Inception, and Midnight in Paris.
Memento is a movie about how a man with amnesia deals with his wife’s rape in murder, and tries to figure out what happened by writing himself notes to remind himself of things that he as already figured out. What makes this movie so much more interesting than any other kind of crime-solving one, is that all of the information is delivered to the viewer out of sequence. As I explained in the introduction, the human brain is used to seeing things in sequence, as in, breakfast comes before lunch, which comes before dinner. This aspect of time went completely in the garbage in the editing room for Memento. All of the scenes were cut and placed out of order so the viewer really had to sit and pay attention to the story. The overall plot wasn’t anything new but the fact that it was put together in a way that viewers were required to really think throughout made it a more interesting and original movie.
Inception on the other hand, was very original in it’s story, and in it’s use of time. Inception is about a man, Cobb, who, with several colleges, “breaks into” other people’s dreams to extract information for an important case. Cobb takes on an important case where he has to put information inside some one’s mind, rather than taking it out. The technology used allows for Cobb and his colleges to put their victims to sleep and take their time to get the information. Cobb, Leonardo Decaprio’s character, describes it in the following scene,
This scene explains an odd phenomenon that every human experiences, but uses it for the story of the movie later on. This element makes the story relatable, which is what sucks the viewer into the movie in the first place. Reliability is so crucial in “Inception” because the whole movie revolves around concepts that don’t exist in the real world. This next scene shows how time is slowed down to make a point, and also for the movie to play out the way the writers wanted it to.
This scene shows how slow motion is used to be able to depict the detail in which the story has. The characters wouldn’t have been able to carry out their task of putting the information into the victim’s mind without slowing down time in the other dreams. Without the manipulation of time, this movie wouldn’t have been as big of a hit as turned out to be, because the story would have holes in it and the common viewer wouldn’t have been able to follow.
Midnight in Paris works with the manipulation of time in a slightly different way than Inception, but uses time to make a similar point. Midnight in Paris is about a writer, Gil, who is in Paris and trying to get inspiration for a book he is in the process of writing. He is a very nostalgic person, and is obsessed with the 1920’s. While on a walk through Paris very late at night, Gil sits down on a set of steps around midnight, and a car from the 1920’s pulls in front of him, and picks him up. Little did Gil know that it was his window to the past, which landed Gil right in the 1920’s. Time Travel is one of Hollywood’s favorite manipulations of time, but in this movie, it was done differently. Writers often use time travel to explore their curiosities with the past, but sometimes it’s used to create what could happen in the future. This type of time manipulation is often used in science fiction type movies, but Woody Allen took this concept and applied it to a more realistic setting. This is what made the movie so much more original. There wasn’t fancy equipment in which the characters traveled through time; there wasn’t any 80’s suspenseful music to hint at potential threats. Though the clip was unavailable online, there is a scene towards the end in which Gil, played by Owen Wilson, is talking to Adriana, played by Marion Cotilard, and Gil realizes that the past isn’t as amazing as he made it out to be. This is a lesson that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. This lesson was well executed through time travel, and wasn’t in the least bit cliché.Time is so important in film that writers and directors work really hard on making the timing of the story work well. Time has a huge influence on so many aspects of film that if not executed properly, the movie is a total flop. Memento would’ve been like all the other detective movies if it hadn’t been out of sequence, Inception would have been your typical Science Fiction movie, and Midnight in Paris would’ve been your typical movie about a struggling writer. In conclusion, the temporal aspects of film can make or break the story of a film.