As argued by Bordwell (2006: 119) since the Hollywood classic style was established during the 1930s a new of wave of films with a different style of editing has been introduced which reworks the assumed codes of textual analysis. Bordwell argues that the characteristics of this new style of editing include rapid editing, bipolar extremes of lens lengths, reliance on close shots and wide-ranging camera movements. (2006: 121) As films within the Twilight Saga make use of this new wave of techniques they therefore fit into this newer category and represent the changing way in which editing is used to communicate narrative.
Dancyger argues that there are many purposes of adopting a rapid style of editing (2002: 215) however the one which seems most applicable to Twilight is to change the mood of the scene. (Rowe and Wells, 2003: 75) In Twilight we see a slow pace of editing as James slowly realises that Bella, a human, is present as the wind blows her smell to him. The effect of this slow editing is to build tension within the audience. As he realises and becomes a threat as he wants her blood the editing rapidly becomes fast to communicate the danger of the situation to the audience. A similar effect is also used within New Moon. As Bella’s blood falls onto the carpet slow editing is used as reaction shots build tension around this event leaving the audience to question what will happen next. Then, as Jasper goes to attack Bella and Edward throws her against the wall, the rate of edits increases to similarly represent danger and the frantic nature of his attack. Therefore, the effect of using rapid editing paired with varying the pace of editing works to build energy and tension around the events on screen, communicating a specific mood to the audience.
Something which both of these texts again adheres to is the reliance upon close up shots. Within Film Production Theory author Jean Pierre Geuens notes the use of extreme close up shots within Thelma and Louise. He argues that “the emphasis is no longer on storytelling (conveyed through conventional staging and editing) but on creating an internal tension within the images through a visual displacement of some sort.” (2000: 19) when large amounts of close up shots are used as opposed to long takes shots which work to create continuity and spatial awareness. (Watson, 1990: 83) This analysis of Thelma and Louise appears similar to that of the Twilight texts in question. Within the clip selected of New Moon initially a mid shot is used as Bella cuts her finger, however, the extreme close up shot of the blood on the carpet is redundant as we are already aware she is bleeding. Thus, the purpose of this shot is to communicate tension to the audience, as we are aware a family of vampires like to drink human blood and have up to now been restraining themselves from Bella.
Comparatively, close up shots are used for an entirely different purpose in the scene selected from Twilight. In this scene as previous discussed tension is built as to whether the vampires will smell the human, Bella. Upon James smelling her and gaining her scent he will be able to track her wherever she goes leaving her in an extremely vulnerable position. The fear of being in such circumstances is communicated through the use of close ups of Cullen’s family’s faces which communicate worry, fear and dread with furrowed eyebrows and tension in the mouth. In terms of the social and political statement the filmmaker is making through these shots it is clear they have established a binary opposition of good and evil and the reaction of fear we pick up on communicates that the nomadic set of vampires, as opposed to the Cullen family, are the evil in this equation. Thus, the social statement would be not to tarnish all with the same brush. Edward and his family are the same race and species as the antagonists, vampires, however they aren’t similarly evil for being so. Through the use of editing and inviting the audience to react to the nomadic vampires in such a way the filmmakers are therefore able to communicate a positive idea about race to their audience.
A further element I would like to comment on in these two clips is the use of slow motion editing. To compare either of these clips to films made up to the 1990s they visually appear very sophisticated and advanced, never in a film made in the 1980s would we see a scene switch between rapid motion, slow motion and real time motion as seamlessly as the Twilight Saga does.
According to Pearlman the effect of fast motion “is kinesthetically comic: it creates absurdity by ellipsis” (2009: 208) as we feel the emotion is too quick to be real. By contrast therefore, slow motion heightens the emotionality of the moment. However, in relation to these clips this does not seem to be true. In New Moon slow motion and rapid motion are interchanged as Edward throws Jasper across the room and he gets up to retaliate. The effect of this varying of speed thus works to represent the confusion of the events taking place on screen and the unpredictability of Jasper’s actions. In the same way in which Bella does not know whether Jasper wants her blood or is a friend, the audience does not know what is coming next, fast or slow motion, and the effect is not at all comedic. Similarly in Twilight as Victoria turns her back to Bella her movements are sped up, further representing the unpredictability of this race and justifying the feared reaction Bella has towards them.
In conclusion these two clips use a variety of editing techniques to manipulate feelings in the audience and move the narrative forward, and as Orpan points out this is a convention of Hollywood editing known at continuity editing. (2003: 16) However, the Twilight Saga also provides a useful way to examine the methods filmmakers use to portray a specific social or political statement, in this case a message of acceptance and ‘not judging a book by its cover’ through editing in a manner which evokes that of Eisenstein who used editing to transform film into a social statement. (Turner, 1999: 36) Thus, the manipulation of the audience by the filmmaker is highlighted not just in relation to feelings and emotions towards characters, but also toward wider social issues.
List of References
Bordwell, D. (2006) The Way Hollywood Tells it: Story and Style in Modern Movies. London, England: University of California Press
Dancyger, K, (2002) The Technique of Film and Video Editing: History, Theory, and Practice. Boston: Focal Press
Geuens, J. P. (2000) Film Production Theory. New York: State University of New York
Hardwicke, C. (2008) Twilight. [DVD] USA: Summit Entertainment
Orpen, V. (2003) Film Editing: The Art if the Expressive. London: Wallflower Press
Pearlman, K. (2009) Cutting Rhythms: Shaping the Film Edit. Massachusetts: Focal Press
Rowe, A. and Wells, P. (2003) ‘Film, Form and Narrative.’ In An Introduction to Film Studies. Ed. by Nelmes, J. London: Routledge
Turner, G. (1999) Film as Social Practice. London: Routledge
Watson, R. (1990) Film and Television in Education: An Aesthetic Approach to Moving Image. Pennsylvania: The Falmer Press
Weitz, C. (2009) The Twilight Saga: New Moon. [DVD] USA: Summit Entertainment