Filmmaking errors and their effects on narrative.

So imagine a movie that opens with a child being kidnapped. That kidnapping sets the plot in motion, and the search for the child is the main action of the film, with the identity of the kidnappers being a central mystery. Now imagine, two minutes later, a scene in which the mother, before the police come to tell her about her missing child, is talking on the phone in her living room, and in a mirror on the wall, the child is plainly visible getting a drink of water in the kitchen.

If you saw that, wouldn't you spend the rest of the film wondering what the mother's connection to the kidnapping was, and how the child was back at home after we saw them being abducted? Wouldn't it be a little infuriating if the film never addressed it?

Of course, from the filmmakers' point of view, none of this screwing with the audience was ever intended - during the editing process, they moved the kidnapping up to the start of the film, but they needed the content of the phone call to set something up in a later scene. Feeling that a flashback might be confusing, they just edited all of the shots of the child from the phone call scene, and then pretended that the phone call scene was taking place after the kidnapping, but before the mother finds out about it. Unfortunately, they missed the reflection in a couple of the shots, and they wound up leaving a deeply confusing image in the film.

Can an observant viewer be blamed for letting the awareness of that reflection colour their impressions and expectations of the rest of the film? This isn't like seeing wires attached to monster heads, or a boom mike drifting into the top of frame. This is an error that doesn't look like a mistake, and has the potential to drastically change the meaning of the film - possibly the most severe kind of mistake.

Which brings me to Curse of Chucky.

The sixth film in the Child's Play franchise, Curse of Chucky features a main character (Nica) who is confined to a wheelchair.

That's her, being introduced.
That's her, being introduced.

Just two minutes after that introduction, the following sequence of events occur. Her mother is killed by Chucky. Nica hears her scream, and then-

As you can see, she quite obviously walks away from the door in that shot. This is not debatable - she is absolutely not in a wheelchair. I even re-encoded that bit in greyscale with high contrast and brightness so that the upper door hinge would be clearly visible, showing her head is level with it-

From a character standpoint, it's completely understandable. Something terrifying has happened inside the house, so she drops her feigned disability in the rush to investigate, then gets back in the chair when she can't find an obvious threat. Makes perfect sense.

So you can understand my confusion when the character spends the rest of the film pretending to be crippled, even when she's the only one left alive, being chased by a murderous doll. I found myself nearly yelling 'stop pretending you can't walk!' Only when the movie was entirely finished did I realize that no, she hadn't been faking, it was just a mistake by the filmmakers, likely rushing to get a pickup shot and not worrying if it matched.

So be careful, directors, actors, and editors, or you can wind up giving audiences drastically different experiences than the ones you were anticipating.


DM said...

I still say you're taking this too far. At no other point in the film is it even hinted at that Nica might be faking; if she were faking, there would be other clues, or no clues whatsoever.

The bigger problem is the dialogue which suggests Nica's paralysis is something that happened to her later in life.

Vardulon said...

How many other clues could there have been? She's with other people for the rest of the movie.

I feel like you're just embarrassed that you didn't notice it as well - this is a 'Prisoners' situation all over again.