Reading “In the Blink of an Eye” was a very inspiring experience; it made me want to go in and cut a film and experience all of the emotions involved in cutting a film. I appreciated Murch’s approach fundamentally on the idea that editing is primarily an emotional experience. He kept going back to this idea throughout the book: technical editing is important but only through the idea that technical editing concepts are primarily rooted in conscious and subconscious emotional experiences we have every day.
This idea, that cutting a film is an emotional skill, I related with. Film editing is just as emotional during the creative process as painting, or photography. When I sit down to edit something that I shot, it is sometimes incredibly easy, and comes very quickly. Sometimes, it is a struggle. If I am emotionally disconnected from the product, then sometimes the editing is uninspired and I am forced to resign to technical editing to finish the project.
Sometimes, I simply do not feel like getting myself to edit. It can be very draining, and is not something that I can do passively.
Murch broke down the essence of what filmmaking is in an incredibly profound way to me. A tendency of mine is to examine what I am doing and break it down to the very nature of it. Natural feelings, consequences, and intuitions intrigue me, and I am always questioning how and why things are the way they are.
Why do I want to do this? Why does this affect me in such a deep way? If my emotions are a natural process that exist through some sort of creative process of God for a specific reason, then these feelings must be born of something fundamentally intrinsic to the human experience. Now, in the 21st century, so many of our experiences are technologically enhanced or synthesized that it is incredibly difficult to break our modern experiences down to the very nature of them. Film is one of these things for me. I struggle with the idea sometimes that film is a synthesized emotional experience, even though this is the very artistic purpose of it.
Murch and I seem to see things similarly in that respect. Murch was very quick to express his awareness of film as a modern phenomenon, hardly a century old. Why, then, is watching a film such a natural, engrossing, emotional process? Film has the ability to make me incredibly angry, or unnecessarily excited. Why does it affect me so fundamentally if it is something that has only existed for a couple generations? Murch explained that it works because of so many natural subconscious processes of ours. Watching film is not so much a learned experience as previously thought. His theory revolves around the idea that film works because we blink. It’s an incredibly simple idea. We blink because that is the way our brain “cuts” information. We really don’t intake visual information continuously. To some degree we are able to subconsciously split it up into swallowable amounts of information to process what’s important and filter out what isn’t.
I think this idea will profoundly affect my filmmaking. Film is intuitive because we are naturally able to adapt to it. We are able to effectively take in other people’s stories naturally and internalize it because of the nature of how we do so in our own lives. Editing then becomes an extreme responsibility. Murch has that little story in the end of taking out that scene that Zinnemann had a profound connection to. The film existed in part because Zinnemann was able to connect to it. However, taking it out created a more seamless experience for the audience. Despite that, it still felt very emotional for Murch to unglue the film on that scene. That’s what filmmaking should be. Good art always comes through a struggle.
Sometimes the struggle is between the artist and his work. Sometimes, it is between the artist and the audience. Sometimes, it is between the work and the audience. It is clear Murch struggles with his work. It seems to him that the struggle should generally be placed between the artist and the work. The audience should only struggle when the artist intends. The editor is responsible for what the audience sees of the film. Murch takes that responsibility upon himself. He also, however, states that there is a process of letting go, too. A decent editor will lead the audience to the point, but a great editor gives the audience an appropriate level of responsibility to struggle with the film as well. This is brilliant filmmaking, and may not be for every film consumer. However, in my own personal work, I want to reflect this idea of letting the audience decide what they get out of my art.
Murch’s book “In the Blink of an Eye” creates some brilliant analogies with which to consider the art of editing. It is a privilege to read the perspective of such an experienced film editor when considering my own artistic editing decisions, and I will certainly remember some of what I read in this book for a while. Being able to connect what is happening in a film with our own in-body experiences as a human being was already a theme of mine and Murch simply confirmed this idea. There really is something so natural about film that it becomes what we are experiencing, yet also there is something so startlingly unexpected about film that keeps us questioning its purpose, motives, and existence in a world that existed for millions of years without it.