Blade of Grass Cut


(permanent link) added: 2010-08-29 19:16:14 sponsor: karaloyal edited by: berr (last reply: 2011-03-18 13:39:37)

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Ready For Launch? Originally written by karaloyal, edited --berr.

This screenwriting technique is seen a lot in "realist" films of the seventies and eighties, with a kind of rebirth in the nineties. It involves cutting to a still object. It might be a stalk of grass, a branch with dew, or a child's toy. Sometimes the trope involves fading in and out of focus, as was done a lot in the 70s, or holding steady, sharp focus. It might be a close up of a Christmas ornament while the drunken parents are arguing, perhaps showing how the child finds it too painful to look at directly, and instead fixates on something steady and reliable. The whole scene of a dinner might focus on a bowl of soup rather than the person eating it.

This trope more often than not has a melancholy or painful tone to it. It often feels emotionally detached or wistful.

The technical term for this trope in cinema is Associational Montage, or Intellectual Montage. The Grammar of Film & Television writes:

[ The juxtaposition of short shots to represent action or ideas; Intellectual montage is used to consciously convey subjective messages through the juxtaposition of shots which are related in composition or movement, through repetition of images, through cutting rhythm, detail or metaphor. Montage editing, unlike invisible editing, uses conspicuous techniques which may include: use of close- ups, relatively frequent cuts, dissolves, superimposition, fades and jump cuts. Such editing should suggest a particular meaning. ]

What it is not: Shots of an object with major significance to the subject (the Ring in Lord of the Rings, the Coffee and the Cigarettes in Coffee And Cigarettes, Rosebud...)

See also Motif for use of objects as a motif, usually a recurring motif.

This is a specific type of Montage. Related to Aspect Montage, among others.

Examples:

Poetry

a red wheel\ barrow
covered with rain\ water
beside the white
chickens." ]
[ -- William Carlos Williams, "Red Wheelbarrow", illustrating this trope with a poem. ]

Comics

  • Watchmen combines this with Motif, cutting in between panels to random symbolic objects (including a snowglobe and a rose, see below) flying in stop motion to symbolize the character's thoughts, immutability of time and stuff.

Film

  • Many of the shots during musical sequences of Easy Rider.
    A classic, almost definitive example can be found here.

  • The Thin Red Line. Body blows up -- cut to blade of grass. Man slowly dying -- cut to birds preening in the trees. Narrator asks "why is nature at war with itself?" -- cut to a crocodile swimming.
    • Terrence Malick loves this trope.

  • Visible in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in a fade in/out of a tree branch with dew, set to "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head".

  • This may include the film La Jetée, which is made up of all still shots with one motion shot.

  • Many examples are silent or musical, many have dialogue, often painful dialogue, going over. High Hopes by Mike Leigh has quite a few "overlong" shots of doors, an elderly lady's dentures, a series of shots of gravestones, often used to reflect a malaise of the characters.

  • Seen in most Dogme 95 films, such as The Idiots.

  • Many shots in Dancer in the Dark are examples of this.

  • Rosebud does not apply in Citizen Kane, but the snowglobe possibly does. In fact, snowglobes in general.

  • Karina Hill writes about Eisenstein: [ "His associational montages use dialectic elements to activate audience emotions. Generally, his associational montages are used to sadden or disgust the audience. Intellectual montage is the colliding of two unrelated shots in order to arrive at an understanding of an abstract concept or message. The Soviet system within which he worked emphasized the social utility of film and he believed that film could be used to reeducate the public. Therefore, Eisenstein used montages to incite physiological, emotional, and intellectual responses in spectators, with the ultimate goal of motivating them to take action." ]

Live-Action TV

The Biggest Loser often does scenery cutaways as transitions, but in a recent episode (Season 9, episode 17), there was a bizarre close-up of a single wild rose, wet with dew, sandwiched between two of the scenery shots. The rose had nothing to do with anything.


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