1917’s In-Camera Editing Techniques

1917 is one of the most incredible films I have ever seen, and sits high on my list of favorite films of all-time. It is directed by Sam Mendes, with the Cinematography helmed by the God of Light Roger Deakins. 1917 is such an amazingly crafted film that I do not have enough words to describe it.

For the uninitiated, 1917 is set in the war-torn era of 1917 and follows two English soldiers trying to deliver a message in an attempt to stop 1600 fellow men from walking into a trap. What makes 1917 a beautifully crafted cinematic experience is the way it is presented — one, single, two-hour-long continuous shot that follows these two protagonists.

Of course, it’s impossible to actually shoot a two-hour long film at this scale and polish, so the are going to be cuts. But Sam Mendes, together with Editor Lee-Smith and VFX studio ‘MPC’ have done a remarkable job of stitching together and hiding these cuts.

However, 1917 is still impressive for the fact that in many scenes, Sam Mendes manages to utilize blocking to move the camera where you’d traditionally require a cut in other films. This brilliant video essay by Thomas Flight explains why 1917 is so good:

I’ve been mesmerized by the art of Cinematography for a long time, and am a sucker for one-shot long takes. It’s fascinating to sit back and study how films like these were made.

If you can still find a way to watch 1917, please do watch it. You probably won’t enjoy it as much as watching it on the big screen, but you can surely enjoy and praise Sam Mendes’ impressive direction, Roger Deakins’ surreal cinematography and Lee Smith’s crafty editing.

Sidenote: While not the same thing, there’s also a really-impressive 12-minute long scene in Netflix’s new film ‘Extraction‘ starring Chris Hemsworth. It’s definitely worth checking out for the action-alone.