Video Essay

At first, I sat there terribly confused. I didn’t understand that I had just watched a video about editing a video essay. Isn’t this what is already done in films? I thought. I applaud Every Frame a Painting (Tony Zhou) for making what could be so thoroughly boring into something engaging that mimics the style of story-driven filmography. It is important to keep works interesting by avoiding repetition and transferring between storylines. I would argue that Contagion (2011) misses the latter by trying to fully accommodate its convoluted storyline. For those who have not seen the film, . I truly enjoyed the concept of the spiderweb of characters that are all affected by the pandemic in different ways. The contamination scenes send chills down one’s spine as an infected character touches something as mundane as a stair rail. The editing did a superb job lingering on these items just long enough to build suspense without it being too obvious.

Regardless, I was left missing out on the characters’ potential. The film had several A-Listers like Gwyneth Paltrow and Laurence Fishburne, though nearly every plot was snubbed. Details are skipped over, and we miss characters for at least half an hour. Several events are not filled in. I’m a firm believer in including ambiguities, but there were too many here. And if I’m being completely honest, I couldn’t tell the three lead Caucasian female doctors apart for the longest time. Of course, there is nothing wrong with the casting: they were just looked at so briefly that I didn’t have enough time to register their physical appearances and personalities. Despite these couple of points I wanted to discuss, Contagion is certainly worth watching. Its narrative is very unique, and others might have an easier time navigating it than I. The editing, which is actually what I am here to talk about (I am no authority on any of these subjects despite pursuing a film career), perfectly encapsulated the full range of distress that is exhibited in this film. We see their vulnerability, courage, grief, and exhaustion. As I noted before, it can be hard to connect them, though the showcasing of these qualities and how it is translated into the landscape shots of the scene I analyzed gives Contagion a solid portion of its merit.

The scene I analyzed.

After watching Tony Zhou’s How Does an Editor Think and Feel? video, I found myself focusing on the characters’ eyes. As an actor, I also gained a newfound appreciation for facial expessions. In theatre, one relies heavily on dialogue and exaggerated movements. However, film has more minute emotions that come most strongly through the eyes. That, including the Roger Ebert article, discussed instinct. One knows when to end a shot instinctually. Ebert mentioned the concept of “intrinsic weighing,” or the idea that “certain areas of the available visual space have tendencies to stir emotional or aesthetic reactions.” Although there are few people focused on in this clip, the spaces shown throughout aesthetically betray the emptiness of this new world.

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