Analysis of the editing in a 6-minute segment building up to the climax of Edgar Wright’s ‘Hot Fuzz’:
Continuity of screen time and Rhythm:
When the ‘old mum’ is KO’d with a flying karate kick to the visage, the editor Chris Dickens uses an ellipsis; he cuts out a segment of time (approximately 3 ‘real-time’ minutes) and skips to the end result (the tied up villagers). Films such as Christopher Nolan’s ‘Following’ use ellipsis as a key narrative device, to foreshadow by cutting to brief moments in the future of the film, before returning back to the present, leaving us to wonder how on earth the journey will lead to these bizarre outcomes. ‘Following’ is unique in that it used ‘unprompted ellipsis’, where the film would abruptly cut between various timelines with no obvious indicator for the motivations of the time shift (e.g. the classic dolly in on an elderly character sitting in an old people’s home, as an old photograph triggers a distant memory). However, this cut in ‘Hot Fuzz’ is more traditional; the first shot after the time jump consists of a slow scene-setting camera move to allow us time to acclimatise to the temporal shift, and ‘connect the dots’ of the ellipsis. An interesting feature of this cut is the brief black screen which represents the skipped section of time. The black screen creates an unanticipated comically abrupt end to the active scene by mimicking the perspective of the ‘old mum’, after she is knocked out stone cold (this is a shockingly brilliant gory twist). The hasty pacing created by this cut seems to give this scene a lack of narrative significance, and as the pace continues to build, our anticipation grows as the scale of climax dawns on us.
One of the first shots in the scene is the slow pan revealing the horses and natural landscape, which mocks the stereotypical desire for tranquillity and peace possessed by the elderly Britton. This slow pan is used to create an optical ‘magic trick’, as when the pan is reversed, Angel’s black car is revealed. This revelation marks the end of these slow pans and the shift towards a more choppy rhythm of shooting and cutting. On many occasions, in contrast to a slow dolly in on a character, a more jarring method of jump cutting between three shots (each one jarringly reducing the distance between the camera and the character) is adopted. This creates the comical mocking of the Hollywood action genre, as the cuts are so explicit, that the audience can not ignore them. Hence, the audience uses their innate film knowledge to realise that the filmmaking techniques are being used to deliberately intensify the moment, but because the cuts are so ‘amateur’ the audience views them as tacky. This style of filmmaking is effectively Edgar Wright’s dissection of the action genre; he destroys the Hollywood facade that filmmaking is some magical art which is impossible for the ordinary to possess by recreating the style used in his earlier student films (pulpy genre pieces which do not take themselves seriously at all). The comical-violence movement, greatly popularised by Tarantino, can be seen throughout contemporary film when auteurs conclude a complex plot by turning it into a comical and totally unrealistic bloodbath (a notable example is Bong Joon-Ho’s oscar-winning ‘Parasite’). This movement aims to put an emphasis on fun within the world of film and tends to embrace the fact that film provides us with a platform to escape reality and enter an exaggerated fantastical world. Although, there is the notable controversy that these films glorify acts of inhumane violence which, if experienced in reality, would be far more traumatic than entertaining. However, I believe that these films play a vital role in maintaining a depiction of the unpolitical but plausible freedom which humans truly have, providing constant reminders of our animalistic and instinctual origins, and that by challenging our moral obligations they can help us to reaffirm why our morals even exist at all.