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Themes and Editing Techniques Employed in Casablanca

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Editors for films and editors for television programmes jobs differ however, the basic concept for both is for them to accumulate the footage of the film or scenes for the episode in a show and create the final cut. Their job entails altering plots, audio and graphics to create a final cut, this is what we as an audience watch.

As editing is a long post-production process, there are many stages the film has to go through to become a seamless product. For a film, editors will make an editor’s cut of the film, they are generally longer than the final cut of the film and not refined. Following, shooting ending, the director can collaborate with the editor to create the director’s cut of the film. This is the refined and shortened version of the film that leads to the final cut. The final cut is what is presented to the production company.

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Continuity editing is invisible editing to create a streamlined story with a beginning, middle and end of that scene or even the whole movie. This allows a free-flowing narrative that is uninterrupted and in chronological order. An example of this would be this scene from Goodfellas, the editing allows for the story to be in chronological order which means the scene is not a scene that is impossible due to its inaccurate timeline as that may sometimes occur in the editor’s cut of a film. However sometimes there are continuity errors such as in the Divine Intervention scene from Pulp Fiction [see fig 1 A-B], there are already gunshots on the wall behind the characters prior to the shooting scene. This means the shot was filmed before the one we’re seeing however the editing here shows the audience this. Which shows a shooting to have taken place before, warping the timeline of the film.

Non-continuity editing involves editing the timeline by using flashbacks etc. It means that the shots are mismatched and this “disrupts the illusion of reality as it disrupts’ timeline of the film. A flashback is an example of non-continuity editing. The purpose of this technique is to bridge time, place and action to reveal information about the character, or move the story forward. Flashbacks can reveal emotional as well as physical information; it can reveal thoughts, memories or dreams.” Furthermore, non-continuity editing breaks continuity normalities, this can be seen in films from the French new wave such as Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. The shot from Marion’s eye dissolves to a shot of the drain, one a concept of the use of this is the idea that this was done in order to show how following her sudden death, her life, like the water, went down that drain, but it also could have been for visual purposes.

Flashbacks are clips that allow the audience to have more information on backstories. This gives the audience information they would otherwise miss out on and not understand the story as clearly. The flashbacks allow the audience to understand the characters and/ or storylines better which evokes emotions out of the audience. They can also be used to give an understanding of a character’s behaviour. They provide vital information of why we should feel the way we do about a character/characters and conveys information that would otherwise not be conveyed.

Flashbacks are often embedded into a scene that has something to do with a flashback e.g. a street reminds the character of the street were something happened and the flashback to that street occurs. They are also a feature of non-continuity editing as the flashback disrupts the storyline meaning it is no longer in chronological/ linear order, this can help move a story in a specific direction, which is another reason they are commonly used.

The use of flashbacks in Casablanca helps the audience to understand the relationship between Rick and Ilsa as we get a glimpse into them spending time together and their conversations. [See fig (2 A-D)] This helps us to understand what Ilsa meant to Rick and why seeing Ilsa affects him.

In Ordinary People, the flashbacks help us to understand the relationship between the brothers, the mother and the brother and the dad and the brother. The helps us to understand what the guy who died was like before he died, how he died and why it should affect the family. By seeing these clips, it forces the audience to empathise with the family but the brother especially, we see this due to two things. One being, the fact that the brother has the most flashbacks and the second being that his brother is the one that was with him when he died. Furthermore, it is confusing the flashbacks flip back and forth between the past and present.

Both Casablanca and Ordinary People used flashbacks to show emotions in a character. Whilst you may think that the flashbacks in ordinary people would be easier to spot due to it being in colour and Casablanca being in black and white, the dissolve transition in Casablanca allows the audience to visually the change to a flashback rather than having to work out that a flashback is occurring like in Ordinary people. The transitions being a white fade in Casablanca and a cut in ordinary people shows the difference in genre between the two movies. The white dissolve that signifies the scene is changing from present to past has an almost dreamy and romantic feel to it which enhances the concept of the film being of a romantic genre and reflects Rick reminiscing before we even see the clips of him and Ilsa. This suggests the movie is a romance and the sad reality of them being just memories suggests it’s a drama. With ordinary people it is a drama and we see this through the dramatic cuts, which blends the present and the past/flashbacks.

The reason why they were effective is due to the fact that they provided vital information that was missing for the storyline to make sense to the audience. The flashbacks also allowed for the movie to take place during a more interesting time rather than spend time showing the past then present and then future, this would also be boring to watch and the audience would become very bored very quickly. A flashback provides both movies with a solution to this problem that would otherwise occur. In conclusion, I personally believe the uses of flashbacks in Casablanca are more efficiently used than in Ordinary People due to them not being confusing and faced pace like they are in Ordinary People. But Ordinary People use flashbacks in a more cleaver way as it allows them to have the storyline placed after the tragic event of the brother’s passing, portraying the characters grieving and showing character development of every character throughout their lives.

Flashbacks can also be seen in both contemporary and historic television .In Perry Mason season 7 episode 3, the episode comes to an end as a flashback reveals how Paul was in no danger and how Perry Mason knew that. This shows the genre of the show as being a fiction drama due to the dramatic reveal to uncover the mystery. The flashback worked well in this sense as it allowed the predicament of the episode have a solution by the end through the use of the flashback. So, not only did the flashback help the audience to understand the story but in engaged the audience as without this flashback, the story would still be a mystery without a solution and explanation.

Thirteen Reasons Why is a contemporary show that also uses flashbacks, however its genre allows its use and effect to differ from the flashback in Perry Mason. The past and present is clearly shown through the use of colour. The past is saturated and vibrant whereas the present is de-saturated and dull. It appears that flashbacks have become more stylistic over time as demonstrated by the use of colour to clearly demonstrate which timeline of the story we are watching taking place. However, the contemporary movie shows that this is not always the case, like Perry Mason, Ordinary People does not signify any explicit change to show the audience a flashback is occurring as thirteen reasons why and Casablanca do.

There are techniques that can be used to distinguish and aid continuity and non-continuity editing. One technique is a cut, while are a variety of cuts there are a variety of cuts, a simple cut is the most basic technique in editing as it is simply one shot replacing another shot. It is virtually invisible and creates a seamless scene, this makes for continuity editing however, it can be used in non-continuity editing if the order of the shots being cut disrupts the timeline of the show or film. It was used in historic films such as Birds as at the time editing was a fairly new concept having only been introduced in around 1902. Edwin Porter was the one who introduced the concept of cutting shots as prior to this no cuts or editing were used at all. The use of shots adds depth to the film allowing it to not just be minutes or even hours of footage but instead shots and scenes. The cut was the first technique to influence the audience as it allowed for movies to have a narrative or sub-plot. Cuts are a simple yet effective technique that shorten a shot to keep the audience interested and watching. They can also be used to quicken the pace of a scene as seen in the movie Birds. The movie would not be as suspenseful as it would need to be for a drama had it not had cuts. Although, this is not the only reason cuts are used, cuts may be used in a stylistic manner to stress certain aspects as shown in the film A street Car Named Desire (1951). The scene Stanley and Blanche’s first encounter shows us that the cut gives the audience an insight into the tension between the two characters as Blanche is clearly attracted to Stanley.

Cuts are also used in contemporary films such as Baby Driver; this adds to the drama by having the scenes be shorter as each transition can be short. Shots are generally shorter in modern films due to the common use of them. Therefore, the cuts from one character to another and the cut from the robbery back to the car[ see fig 3 A-B] are predicted by the audience to make the audience feel included and aware of what is going on as it is not a mystery. It also makes the film feel slightly more real.

Both Birds and Baby Driver use cuts as a transition from one shot to another this quickens the pace to add suspense and action and also aids the audience, as they do not have to process the replacement of one shot by another as it happens so fast and seamlessly that it is undetectable. This shows that although film has progressed and changed throughout the years with advances in different aspect of film, that there are some fundamentals of editing, one being cuts and their purpose.

These cuts are also most commonly used in tv due to their quick duration which takes up less space in an already short period of time that is given in an episode. Cuts are used in shows of all genres such as American Horror Story, a horror, as Tate walks through the hallway cuts are used to cut out time that would be otherwise wasted showing him walking which is pointless and makes the scene less effective in being dramatic and mysterious as the genre of American Horror story is. The cut is effective as it displays that a period of time has passed and that he is really only walking for a few seconds. It also featured in the show The Waltons. The cut is a simple device that provides continuity in this scene as it allows the shots to flow with the shots transitioning from one to another without distracting the audience with a transition such as a dissolve. This would break up the seamless and undetectable flow of transitions that is provided with a cut transition.

In conclusion these techniques are stylised to make the genre of the movie distinct in order for the audience to have a pre-conceived notion of the genre of the movie, before the story unfolds. This allows them to decide whether or not they want to watch this movie and base how good the movie on their interpretation of what makes a movie of that genre good. It also creates a different environment for the scene, which is what allows us to distinguish genres of shows and movies. These techniques enhance the viewers experience by altering the pace of the episode or film to keep the audience interested.  

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