Great editing is invisible, which means it often goes unnoticed. We pick the best editing of the year, and explain why it is crucial to flow, tone, and rhythm. Read the rest of our best of the year content here.
The best editing is so good it’s invisible, which also means it often goes unnoticed. Muck up the edit, and a film’s rhythm and tone can get completely botched. Get it right, and the film just flows. It’s no coincidence that most Best Picture Oscar winners are also nominated for Best Editing — even if the academy regularly gets it wrong when it comes to the awards themselves. For our Best of 2017 series, we take a look at the five best examples of film editing from 2017.
In my piece “Tricks with time”, for our Call Me by Your Name Special Issue, I wrote about how director Luca Guadagnino and editor Walter Fasano use editing to stretch and contract time — putting us first in 17-year-old Elio’s (Timothée Chalamet) headspace, and then, more and more, in his 24-year-old paramour Oliver’s (Armie Hammer).
Although the film is centred on the love story between Elio and Oliver, we’re constantly learning about secondary characters. Many scenes involve multiple characters — at dinners, dances, and archeological excursions. These are not only the hardest kinds of scenes to direct but also to edit: how do you balance private moments for individual characters in closeup with the bigger picture of how characters relate to each other? Focus solely on the speaker, and you’ll miss crucial reactions, and vice versa.'CMBYN editor Walter Fasano regularly prioritizes Marzia’s perspective by staying with her longer than a film only interested in Elio’s arc might.'Click To Tweet
In every dinner scene or Perlman family gathering, we get a glimpse of how Elio’s parents relate to each other, their son, Oliver, and their friends. By the time Mr. Perlman gives his now legendary speech about first love lost to his son, his melancholy about his own missed opportunities and imperfect marriage doesn’t come out of nowhere: it’s been brewing, just beneath the surface throughout the film, as he watched the boys’ courtship with visible envy.
Similarly, although Elio’s girlfriend Marzia’s story never overpowers the main arc, Fasano provides moments that show how her relationship with Elio could have been just as meaningful for her as his relationship with Oliver is to him. Fasano regularly prioritizes Marzia’s perspective by staying with her longer than a film only interested in Elio’s arc might. Not only does the film open on Marzia, but Fasano lingers on her at key points: just before she looks out the window at Oliver arriving; while she waits to meet Elio to embark on a romantic relationship; and when, feeling insecure and uncertain, she confronts Elio about their relationship status. – Alex Heeney
Editor Sofía Subercaseaux only has six features under her belt, but her assured grip on the craft has already cemented her as a talent to watch. She has a knack for understanding a film’s tone and finding the exact right cutting rhythm to match, giving her work distinctive musicality. Christine is edited with the disjointed, staccato rhythm of its protagonist Christine Chubbuck’s (Rebecca Hall) anxious, isolated headspace. In contrast, Dina is more of an adagio, patiently observing daily life. Adapting to documentary filmmaking, Subercaseaux finds the right moments to linger in amongst mountains of footage depicting the most banal of everyday activities.
Dina is a serene and intimate film, about a recently engaged autistic woman named Dina Bruno. It plays out in a series of static, wide, long-take tableaus, allowing us to observe Dina uninterrupted — an attempt to present her life truthfully and to avoid exploitation. Subercaseaux’s work is minimal but elegant; she crafts the film’s slow, calming rhythm, allowing scenes to play out naturally, and always sensing the exact moment we should move on. – Orla Smith