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1917: Aesthetics in Timing

Sam Bennett

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I think it's a shame there's so few discussions in the 'Aesthetics' threads here when that's kinda the whole point of what we do, right?!

I'm just hoping to leave this space open for discussion on the aesthetics of 1917. From a story and technical point of view, I found this film to be absolutely phenomenal and virtually flawless. But in talking about the look of the movie, I thought it was so beautiful and no doubt thanks to Deakins' incredible talent but of course the operators who made these frames. I was blown away and again watching the movie. A few highlights were that plane crash 'shot' and the 'shot' following George MacKay's character down the river when he begins to go under and then the slow, slow approach to fallen tree with the dozens of bodies slowly revealing themselves - eerie to say the least.

I, and maybe you were too, was concerned this film as a oner would feel a bit gimmicky, but I think the lack of 'editing' and the ability to place the audience in real time with the characters was perfect. Every key piece of information was revealed to the camera at just the right time, forcing our reactions to sync up perfectly with the characters. Think - the rat and the trip wire. There is no insert shot of the rat approaching the wire to build suspense and give a wink to the audience, we see the rat at the exact moment the characters do, and only have that half second to react - just like them. Similarly, there isn't any big moments where the audience watches a character's face as they look out at something or learn new information about what's in front of them without us seeing it at the same time too. I suppose the aesthetics of this film are woven so masterfully with TIMING and for me, that's really what brought it all together.

I would love to have a conversation about all things 1917 that doesn't get too technical as I see a lot of those discussions happening already!



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  • 7 months later...

I agree! Roger, Charlie Rizek and Pete Cavaciuti did a stunning job with the camera work in this film. I love how each brought a different strength and skill set to the film in how they moved the camera. Sort of the ultimate example of tools existing to serve the story, and not the other way around. 

I love this video ARRI put together, despite being a bit of a sales pitch for the Mini LF, there are some great tidbits of knowledge here. 


Edited by Andrew Brinkhaus
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  • 3 weeks later...

No movie has had me question how the hell they did that shot so many times while watching. Continually amazed throughout. 

my only critique was I felt the trench shots in the beginning 15-20minutes were a little ambitious/distracting. I saw the reasoning behind being in the trenches with them as we get to know our two main characters at that point, but would have loved to see a transition to a wider frame/different angle as it was just a really long sequence to keep interesting in what is essentially a following/leading walk and talk shot. 

now that I think about it I have another critique. The trinity shot after the waterfall sequence, where he’s walking amongst the soldiers listening to the song before battle. That shot the stabilization was really off, I’m assuming because of some difficulty with the path or the extreme foreground/background as it passed soldiers, but that shot would really have benefitted from being steadicam over trinity. One of the few times during the movie where I felt the over reliance on body-mounted stabilizers/the ambition of the camera movement showed through In a bad way. 

love this post btw, I agree it’s what the forum and Facebook groups are missing, discussions on the nitty-gritty of aesthetics!

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