We have come to seen the popularization of no cutscenes in games. As opposed to film which often relies on cuts and methodical edits, this is to say that many games trend toward longer shots without interruption, particularly after 1998’s Half Life.
As art often does, a new cinematic feature aims to revolutionize the process with absolutely no editing at all, or so it appears. A NY Times Artsbeat post discusses the making of Silent House, an indie horror flick filmed in one, continuous 88-minute long shot. The directors, the same minds behind 2003’s ode to Jaws, Open Water, took to choreographing the film long before taking on any crew. The film does in fact have edits, though they are barely visible to the human eye. Director Chris Kentis comments briefly on the how they acheived the long, uncut suspense film:
The filmmakers worked with the director of photography, Igor Martinovic, on ways to get the most out of their camera, a small Canon 5D that allowed for flexibility. “It’s that camera’s shallow depth of field and the lenses we used that helped us tell the story,” Mr. Kentis said. “You could use it to draw the audience’s attention to something within the frame or you could use it to reflect a character’s state of mind.”
Of course, long takes and careful “non-editing” in movies are hardly new techniques: we’ve seen this in everything from Hitchcock’s suspense masterpiece Rope to Alfonso Cuarón’s chilling dystopian thriller Children of Men all the way to the unforgiving stylings of Gaspar Noe in his most recent French arthouse work, Enter the Void. What results is a pure suspense, as we the audience aren’t relieved by transitioning the gaze via editing. It is an oftentimes controversial filmmaking technique because really, you’re forcing someone to watch something they’d probably rather not see.
If we consider the foundation of gaming, however, we find that this is often the default, with screens needing to remain uncut to uphold suspense and fluid gameplay. Consider the common arcade games like Ms. Pac Man or Centipede: they do not cut the action not only because the technology could barely support, but also because it would interrupt immediate action. How successful would Pong even be if the player had to sit through cuts and zooms and cinematic interludes regularly? Or any game for that matter?
At the end of the day, games and films simply differ in function and therefore structure. However, is it so farfetched to say that they share the same properties of suspense and genre in this case?