Write a blog post about your thoughts on Blink of an Eye. Think about why edits in film actually work? What are the criteria Murch lays out for a successful cut? Can you think of several examples from films that exemplify Murch’s theories?
As someone who has never seriously edited film before, I rarely even notice cuts in a good film. That’s because a great editor knows exactly where to cut and what to cut to such that the cut barely registers, the film just makes sense.1 It feels continuous instead of wrong.
Murch ponders on the idea of “bad bits” significantly, discussing how the “bad bits” actually include everything that doesn’t make the film the best it can be. This brings up an interesting point: cuts, through their very nature of leaving something out (the bad bits), can create something special. The removal of something turns out to be the greatest of additions. In the first season of Stranger Things, the monstrous antagonist seems scarier because we barely see its physical presence—we only see hints and evidence of it for the majority of the season, so we as viewers build it up in our minds. In the movie Call Me By Your Name, cuts during the climax prevent us from seeing the physical reality of the love scene, so viewers imagine something great instead. This leaves a certain amount of anonymity—though we know the characters
One of the concepts best paired with cuts is constraint, which Murch explores a bit in his section “Most with the Least.” Though he examines constraints in the context of not cutting overactively (“like a tour guide who can’t stop pointing things out”), constraints can necessitate cuts as well. One of the reasons the first season of Stranger Things frequently cut away from showing the monster was the lack of a budget for the special effects team to render the monster in all those scenes. In later seasons, we see markedly less restraint in this area, due to the much higher production budget after the show took off for Netflix. For Call Me By Your Name, the first director’s cut of the film was 4 hours long, but it was trimmed to nearly half that due to the constraint of audience & cinema attention. Cuts must be made with restraint, but constraints lead to cuts as well.
Our goal in editing is to distill a film, making it more engaging along the way (such that the “galaxy of blinking dots” fails to blink!). Cuts are a critical component of this, and judiciously used, they make a film comprehensible, continuous, and coherent. Their associated removal, when well-placed, can add enormously to films, and the constraints around their placement often lead to extraordinary creativity.