Video Essay: Critical Film Analysis

Critical and Contextual Production Analysis: Sample Extracts

1. Introduction

This essay will explore the ethical issues involved in portraying morally problematic protagonists and the ways in which directors and editors can handle the related ethical issues of doing so. Some directors, such as Quentin Tarantino or Mary Harron, may choose to put a darkly comedic slant on the events of the film to provoke amusement rather than outrage, while more conventional directors like Martin Scorsese or Alfred Hitchcock rely on cuts and pacing to draw a complex character portrait. My analysis will discuss timing and shot selection in relation to the effect that they have on the content of the film and the audience’s perception of the character portrayed on screen.

2. Theoretical and Contextual Analysis

In Spiral (Engrenages) (2006) Episode 2, the viewer can see some examples of police brutality. Similar to the incident in Happy Hour, we can see in the second episode how police officers assault Mr. Abderamane Rachid, a drug dealer of black origin, in order to get information about a brutal crime that they were investigating. A fast camera movement was used to create a sense of ambiguity in the shots, rather than a clear display of punches that were applied towards the accused. The camera work was done to keep more with contemporary style cinema, although, this was filmed for television.

When the police chief opened the door, and discovered that police officers used physical aggression towards the arrested who had just fallen from his chair, he did not seem to be moved by this incident.

The police got the information they wanted using unfair means. We can see in the interrogation scenes that Rachid was being pressured by the police on one side, and the criminals who also pressured and threatened him and his family on the other side. It seems that Rachid felt unable to find a way out of this situation and decided to commit suicide in his prison cell.

3. Process

My editing choices for this project aim to highlight key moments in the scene through smooth cutting, and how this sometimes limits the type of shots available to the editor. Smooth cutting can help the viewer evoke an “emotional, not critical, reaction” so that the film has less noticeable cuts in creating a sense of fluidity of actions (Dmytryk 2013, p. 11).

Beyond the storyboard, there will be moments in the editing process where continuity of action, direction, or dialogue is not quite right across certain edits. A possible solution is to use cutaway shots to “divert the audience’s attention from the previous shot without breaking out the content of the scene in which they appear” (Bowen and Thompson 2013, p. 194). These cutaway shots helps with that momentary distraction that the audience needs sometimes, and it serves to refocus the attention.

The manipulative nature of editing involves a good deal of intercutting and cutting the sequence for its value, which is often intended to deliver the desired outcome in the narrative. “In short, the proper cut to the proper shot at the proper time is always the cut of choice” (Dmytryk 2013, p. 45). The editor can manipulate those shots so that the actions and events become believable on the screen. The content of shots involves a great deal of shot composition, camera angles, continuity of content, continuity of movement, continuity of position, and sound (Bowen and Thomson 2013).

4. Product

Some parts of the shots have unbalanced camera movement which indicates that the camera was not steady when recording. Samuelson (1984) suggests that it is desirable when using a hand-held camera, that a shot is performed with a slight bend in the knees when walking to follow a subject to avoid unwanted vertical bumps.

Working with a fairly good quality material challenged me to experiment with different types of edits, which helped to produce a product that has interesting insights into a psychological crime drama. This short film is complex, entertaining, and has a meditative element, and, I feel, it would likely be more suited for television and online distribution.


This video essay explored the ethical issues faced by its main protagonists in Happy Hour and gave me the opportunity to analyse and edit the timing of the shots in each scene and to positively influence the overall pace of the film. In my research, I learned that this could be achieved by varying the pace throughout the film instead of keeping it at the same level. The fast and slow pace of the story narrative gradually changed in the film, and the availability of different types of shots motivated me to experiment further and explore the various types of cuts.

The essay also focused on the important stages within the editing process to ensure amongst other things, a smooth spatial continuity, rhythm, consistency of angles, tonality, a controlled use of framings and in the words of Fairservice (2001, p. 319), “whichever of the possibilities proved to deliver the best or most meaningful performance at any moment”.

When editing a sequence, I agree with Dmytryk’s (2013) opinion that, if the visual information is dramatically interesting and dramatically necessary, the editor should make the choice to match the flow over a match cut. Sometimes, it is more damaging to make a cut that matches the shot perfectly and “it may diminish the dramatic thrust of the scene” (Dmytryk 2013, p. 44) and therefore may appear illogical. Murch (2001) claims that our eye is susceptible to this subconscious blinking when we watch something on the screen or listen to someone speaking to us. He believes that it is a problem if someone blinks too much or not enough, and suggests that to “blink at the “right” places at the “right” rate” (Murch 2001, pp. 71, 72) is what really counts when we watch a film or speak to others.


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Author: EditorFilm

Video film editor with experience in design, programming, graphics, and all phases of post-production.

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