Out tomorrow on DVD, and worth checking out, is Silent House, a film most notable not for its haunted-house narrative (which is adequate) nor its leading performance by Elizabeth Olsen (which is quite good), but for its remarkable technique: the entire film is cleverly shot to appear as though it is captured in one unedited, unbroken take. It wasn’t, of course (it’s pieced together seamlessly via several hidden “stitches”), and isn’t the first film to try to put that trickery across; earlier films like Russian Ark, Timecode, and PVC-1 have been executed entirely in a long take, though this is one of the few films to use the technique at the service of a genre story.
These films are part of a long tradition of stylish filmmakers showing off their craft via long, elaborate shots, often incorporating extensive camera movement and busy choreography to create an unending flurry of on-screen activity. After the jump, we’ve assembled ten of our very favorites; agree, disagree, and add your own in the comments.
Alfred Hitchcock wanted to make a film with no edits primarily as a challenge: could he create suspense and tension without the luxury of cutting? Alas, the technology he was working with didn’t allow him the opportunity — film cameras can only hold a “reel” (roughly ten minutes) of film, and once that reel runs out, it must be changed. As a compromise, Hitchock decided to make Rope as a series of ten unbroken five-to-ten-minute takes, “masking” them whenever possible to give the impression of continuous shooting. It’s more of an interesting experiment than an altogether successful technique, but the film has its moments, the relentlessness of the camera nicely complimenting the claustrophobia of the single-set story.