every cut is a lie…
That is my favourite half of the infamous Jean-Luc Godard quote “film is truth 24 times a second, and every cut is a lie”. He is a filmmaker whom has had a tremendous impact on me in the last few years and these handful of words he uttered many many years ago will continue to affect the way i work as a filmmaker. I think it has hit such a chord with me because it is something i have been stylistically gravitating towards for some time, yet i was unable to articulate or come to terms with exactly what it was. Coming from a movie critique background whilst making his ever-eternal 1960’s French New Wave films such as Le mépris, À bout de souffle & Bande à part, Godard exuded every ounce of this quote through his films. Today his style has drastically changed and possibly evolved into literal motion picture critiques which include many of these so-called lies (not to mention many different stylistic choices). This may seem like he has completely turn his back on his original ideas, but the quote as a whole is somewhat an oxymoron in the first place (and probably why Michael Haneke has since reworked it into “film is 24 lies per second at the service of the truth”).
But why is a simple cut a lie and why am i drawn toward this ideology? In simple filmmaking terms, we use cuts to move onto a different shot (and therefore character, action, movement, etc…) which is more interesting or advances the story where we want it to go. However, in that previous moment before the cut – that was the only place a truth could possibly live because that was a moment in time. When we cut to another shot, that goes to a completely different moment/time parallel, however as filmmakers we manipulate them to appear as one. Therefore, a lie has been told. Yes, one can argue that we’re only making movies which at its core is lies and manipulation, but this is where Haneke’s version comes into its own and why I’m drawn towards social realism – the quest of finding the truth (in a deceitful medium).
Life is truthful – there lies no cuts within. Documentaries are as close to life as motion pictures get because it is capturing the moment-by-moment events which occur in front of the lens. There is no chance of getting another ‘take’, a different ‘angle’ or more ‘coverage’ because that moment has passed and will never be truthful revisited. Again, you could also argue that because there’s a camera in the vicinity, the events shown have been affected or influenced… In a slightly amusing side point, friends and family alike have been asking me how my ‘documentary’ is going. I respond with ‘great’, however the film in question is actually Indefinite, a dramatic feature film. I guess I am to blame as I’m approaching it in the most truthful possible way – not forcing my opinions or answers on the audience. So on this quick reflection, i can clearly see why people presume its a doco!
In relation to the world of fiction and dramatic films, I think it’s much more complex and ultimately difficult to get everything you need for a scene without cutting. It all depends on your own point of view when it comes to filmmaking, but I’d argue to cut is to cheat! However the audience is conditioned to this stylistic choice of cutting (even jump cuts are acceptable), so they go along with the ride, but just like any theme park ride it’s always going to end at a certain, predetermined place. Children can go down this same slide many times without becoming bored because their imagination is running wild – whilst adults don’t because its no longer fun to do something so foreordained… So why cant we have the same interests in cinema as we do these rides?