Brief Notes On The Continuity Editing System

The continuity system is the common method that Hollywood employs when it produces a film. The continuity system is completely aesthetic. The continuity system produces films with a ‘editing [style] that is carefully calibrated with the action on screen.’◊ The action, movement is be edited so that the audience can understand at all times any conflict and any relationships – spatial or emotional. The continuity system is a guideline that helps produce a sense of correct spatial relationships. Eyeline matches between person and object help locate the audience in the scene and help highlight any importance object holds.

Another important note regarding the continuity system is that it holds that the narrative, and how the narrative is shown, should move in a linear fashion. That is; from cause to affect. Ocasionally this is disrupted, such as in the analepsis (flashback) style of narrative famous in Film Noir, however one thing that remains is that once in the action of the film the editing composes the film in a order so that every action is understandable. In Double Indemnity (1944) Walter Neff’s narration is composed so that every action he re-tells is rationalized and given a clear motive. This ensures that the audience at all times understands where and why the action is taking place.

◊ Maria Pramaggiore and Tom Wallis (ed), Film: A Critical Introduction, London: Laurence King Publishing (2008) p. 213.

[On a side note my father is currently staying so full entries on individual movies is not easy, however i have several notes filled in a little yellow book and will be writing those up]

Modern Hollywood and the Continuity System

Happy Gilmore (1996)

The continuity system, that Modern Hollywood adheres to, hopes to unite ‘the potentially dis-unifying force of editing by establishing a smooth flow from shot to shot’◊ Mise-en-Scene [basically ‘what you see’] is included into that continuity system. At all times in Happy Gilmore conflict, important to the narrative structure, has to be communicated to the audience. This is achieved by the simple technique of foregrounding diametrically opposed forces thrust together and unable to part. In Happy Gilmore this is the violent Ice Hockey-playing Sandler and the calm, mannered golf community thrust together by circumstance. His clothes, as indicated by the photo, are at odds with the pastel colours of the crowd and his mannerisms, extreme displays of pleasure, are at odds with the reserved displays of displeasure. This overt and rather brash technique is not just used in comedy films but all Hollywood films because at all times the audience must be aware of the tension and conflict that contributes to the narrative. In essence at no time in Happy Gilmore must the audience not know what the ultimate goal is and who the protagonist and antagonist are.

 

◊ Bordwell, D. & Thompson, K. , FIlm Art, (Reading: Addison Wesley: 1980) p. 163