EX MACHINA (Garland, 2015): A Brief Note on Cutting (and Why You Should See this Movie on the Big Screen)

Rightly so, this one’s receiving high praise. But Alex Garland’s directorial debut isn’t just about ideas, and the style isn’t just Kubrickian.

Watch for where figures are placed in the frame during the many conversation scenes. At times, one figure will be jammed on the far left, and this, when looking offscreen left at his/her interlocutor. Then, in the reverse angle shot, the figure he/she is speaking to will be jammed on the far right side of the frame, while glancing offscreen right now. In addition, at calculated moments we jump the line (i.e., violate the 180º rule), and this when the two characters conversing are shown in long shot and staged in profile at opposite ends of the frame, with an empty interval between them.

One’s eye is almost agitated during these instances. As we cut back and forth between the two speakers, our gaze must dart all the way across the ‘scope frame and then back again after the cut for the next character’s line.

An intriguing, almost imperceptible device that captures the affective tenor of these scenes, and that shows why we ought to watch movies at the movies, so that the eye can play the games set out for it.

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