Single-take hype doesn’t do 1917 justice

Saw the gripping triple Oscar-winner 1917 over the weekend in the Rock at Bury and spent a good part of the movie looking for the joins!

That’s because part of the PR hype supporting director Sam Mendes’s groundbreaking film is the apparent ‘technical feat’ of appearing to follow the two-hour action in one continual take.

The focus on a single-shot movie has won him huge critical acclaim as David Cox explained in the Guardian.

David name checked a few films who had used similar techniques but missed out Victoria, a German crime thriller geninenly shot in one single take.

The Hollywood Reporter described Victoria as a “kinetic, frenetic, sense-swamping rollercoaster ride” but said the plot was somewhat implausible.

However, the one-take action was genuine. The director, Sebastian Schipper, only had the budget to film three runs. The first one was too timid. The second too crazy. The third hit the spot. He had shot the film in sections so he could stitch it together if necessary.

This wasn’t the case with 1917.

Tim Jonze, again in the Guardian, lifts the lid on the 1917 PR stunt. 

The Oscar-winning film was famously shot in “one take” (in reality, very long takes – some of them almost 10 minutes – stitched together) and the last thing anyone needed was to get seven minutes into a take, only for the safety catch on a rifle to jam.

The inside story behind the production was revealed by Insider magazine.

Sam Mendes spoke about the single take in a interview with Vox. He said:

[1917 is] not shot in a way that’s designed to draw attention to itself. I don’t really want people to think about the camera. If you’re aware of it for the first 10 minutes, then hopefully thereafter you forget about it, and you just watch the story.

Unfortunately, the gimmick stayed with me the entire film – if it had never been mentioned in the pre-release PR, I’d never have noticed … and, as is often the case, the advance PR undermined what was a superb technical achievement with no need for any OTT hype.