II: Technical Evocations
The Scene-Length Shot
Alfred Hitchcock had experimented
the ultimate sequence-length shot with Rope,
an entire movie in (almost) just one shot.
A scene from Rope.
Nevertheless, he was very
critical about his own use of this technique.
Talking to François Truffaut about Rope,
he said : "I realize
that was completely stupid because I broke with
all my traditions and I disavowed my theories
about parceling out movies and the possibilities
of editing in order to tell visually a story.
(…) Films must be edited. Rope is an unforgivable
But Hitchcock didn't disavowed the scene-length
shot. Among others, in Notorious
(1946), a dolly shot crosses a hall room to finally
show the hand of Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman),
hiding the key of the cellar. This scene is in
fact the carbon copy of a long dolly shot at the
end of Young and
Innocent (1937), where
the camera crosses the ballroom and stops on the
winking eyes of the drummer of the band, identifying
him as the murderer.
The long dolly
shot at the end of Young
This technique has been greatly
reused by Spielberg. In his movies, the scene-length
shot never lasts more than a minute and reinforces
the impact of the scene. In Raiders,
let's remember when Marcus comes to Indy's house.
He announces him the American government decided
to entrust Dr Jones for recovering the Ark. The
whole scene is filmed in one shot, with no editing
cut. Except a brief close-up on the gun, dramatically
unjustified but inserted for pragmatic reasons
scene filmed in only one shot.
Just like Hitchcock, Spielberg
makes the camera cross a whole room and finish
by focusing on the most important detail of the
The Sound Transition
In the Well of the Souls,
Indy and Sallah open the stone chest protecting
the Ark. They lift the top part and let it fall
on the ground. In a wink, we are back to Belloq's
tent. In fact, Spielberg introduces a double transition
between the scenes:
- a visual one : the storm lightning
increases briefly the luminous intensity in
the Well of Souls. And the bright light decreases
once we are back in Belloq's tent
- a sound one : the sound of the
heavy stone rolling on the steps is replaced
by the similar sound of thunder over Belloq's
|Sound of Rolling
The sound transition is a
directing technique created by Hitchcock for his
last silent movie! The film, Blackmail
(again!), was released as a silent movie in 1929.
But Hitchcock, feeling that he was at the turning
point of talking cinema, shot the film as a talking
one. There was no microphone recording but the
actors were filmed saying the whole dialogue.
A few months later, when the talking cinema techniques
became perfected, Hitchcock modified the editing
and directed the sound synchronization of Blackmail,
which then was released as the first british talking
the yell of a woman is replaced by the yell of
another one. But the sound transition as a work
of art appears in another Hitchcock movie : The
39 Steps (1935) : a
woman enters an apartment and discovers a corpse.
She then yells and the shouting is replaced by
the sound (and the image) of a whistling steam
in Hitchcock's The
Spielberg will quote explicitly
this very scene in a similar transition (from
a yelling woman to a train) between the first
and second sequences of
The Lost World
- Jurassic Park: on
an exotic beach of Isla Sorna, seeing her daughter
attacked by numerous small dinosaurs, a mother
yells. CUT. The sound continues as we now see
Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), the mouth wide opened.
Actually, he yawns, on a subway platform. And
the strident sound comes from the wheels of a
train grating the rails as it enters the station.
Let's notice, in the background, the commercial
poster with a palm tree, a discreet (but efficient)
complementary visual transition.
transition in The
Lost World: Jurassic Park.
III: Dramatic Evocations >>