I wrote about the first part of David Menard’s analysis of the gap between the theories of long take and montage here. The second part of his essay focuses on The Trial (Welles, 1962).
It’s an intriguingly opaque film, which I need to watch again to decide whether or not I truly liked it. But reading Menard’s analysis alongside the film has helped me to organise my thoughts.
I’m particularly interested in how Welles’ mise en scène reflects his editing style. Menard highlights a sequence in which the beleaguered protagonist, Joseph K., escapes from the portrait artist Titorelli’s studio and runs through a sequence of passages, corridors and tunnels which eventually lead him to a cathedral.
Titorelli’s studio connects with the offices of the justice building which in turn communicate directly with the Cathedral. These scenes are like pieces of a long chain and the shots are their links, creating a mental geography that synthetically brings together diverse spaces that effectively detaches themselves, as a result of their union, from the narrative assumption that there exists such a thing as a representation of reality. At this point, Welles is truly conjuring up an imaginary space-time reality. (Menard, 2003)
The long passages through which Joseph K. runs mimic Welles visual style of long takes interspersed with cuts which simultaneously change, but continue, the rhythm. It’s a representation of Welles expressive editing style which combines long takes with strategically placed (and often unexpected) cuts.
Menard goes on to point out that despite Welles use of long take, his style is far removed from André Bazin’s theory of long take as a representation of reality first and an artistic technique second:
Even though these visuals are juxtaposed in the course of framing, they are as far from verisimilitude as they can be. This is not Bazinian long take theory, Welles’ film systematics is something theoretically “new” (Menard, 2003)
Menard summarises Welles visual style as a potent cocktail of cutting and camera movement:
Expressive montage and intelligent camera movement that allow for the audience’s acceptance of jarring spatial ruptures and digressive temporal ellipses in the overall schematic movement of the film. (Menard, 2003)
This seems to be an important midpoint on the continuum between the purist schools of long take and montage. But the fact that it falls in the middle of this spectrum makes it that much trickier to classify and create; finding the right balance requires much cleverer eye than simply picking one extreme or the other. Perhaps this is why is Welles was drawn to it, as an opportunity to exercise the most refined cinematic judgement?
Menard, D., (2003) Toward a synthesis of cinema – a theory of the long take moving camera, Montreal: Hors Champ, Available from: http://www.horschamp.qc.ca/new_offscreen/synthesis_theory2.html [Accessed on 5 May 2016]
Welles, O., (1962), The Trial, Paris-Europa Productions