Scenes From The Suburbs – Reflecting on the Edit

You know how, when you get a certain type of car (or shoes, or anything really), then you see them everywhere? The same goes for editing. During the editing process my mind has been so caught on how editors haves stitches scenes together that i feel like I am picking apart even the ads before the videos I watch on youtube and asking myself how I would have done them. I came across Scenes of the Suburbs on vimeo recently and this editing obsessed part of my brain fired up at the mention of Arcade Fire. The Suburbs was my favourite song between the ages of 15 and 17 and I was intrigued to find that Spike Jonze had compiled footage into both a short film surrounding the song and a music video. Multiple edits are not uncommon, directors cuts and trailers are industry standard, but directors cuts are given more time (usually) and a trailer and a music video operate in very different ways. The omission of large chunks of information is crucial to a trailer, but in this situation the entire 30 minutes was being condensed into just under 6 minutes.

watching the two back to back returned me to what I learnt from the first reading. The narrative of the short film is stripped away from the music video. The music video exists within a single moment in time; an environment without a sense of start, middle, and end. The character of Winter, his progression the major focus of the film, becomes a mere concept in the music video and I found this fascinating.

The use of military presence is a reasonably obvious reference to the lives of Afghan kids during the US occupation, but the visualisation of this concept is made obscure by its setting within suburban America. During the film this military presence is an environmental factor rather than a narrative one, it seeks to explain the internal progression of the characters and their turmoil between childhood innocence and the struggles of adulthood. This environment, even though it always stands in the background, sets a constant melancholy that cannot be shifted even in the lighter moments of the film. The music video grasps onto this melancholy and focuses on the dichotomy between the suburban landscape and the military presence. To condense what is being expressed in the film we focus less on the characters and their relationships than we do on the environment. The shift in focus is really interesting at the end of the music video when progress is made and characters shift. Winter suddenly makes his jarring separation from the group, yet it doesn’t make much sense. To me this was the least resonant part of the music video, which was odd because that character arch epitomised the harrowing feeling of the film. The music video’s strength is capturing the friction that is displayed in the environment, but it is a medium that cannot deliver character progression well. The dialogue of the film is its strength – it establishes character relationships only to let them unravel at the end. The music video is not afforded this dialogue, and so cannot evolve its characters so clearly.

Meditating on the differences of these two works has made me reflect on our production and the choice to leave the  main characters arch unresolved. As I am editing up the footage I believe that this was the right choice as an attempt to put a whole character arch in the space of 4 minutes would be misguided. The audience is not given time with the character. Her existance cant breathe so there is no impact when it evolves and shifts. Instead my focus in editing will be do develop the sense of tension of becoming. In this sense it will not be too far removed for the sense of becoming that is shown in The Suburbs as I follow in Jonze’s footsteps of attempting to convey the friction between who we were and who we will be.