2013, Movies

The Police Officer’s Wife (2013, Philip Gronning)

There are perhaps few movies I have seen more in need of a little common-sense editing than this film. The filmmakers made a bizarre choice which may have made some kind of artistic sense in post-production but which pretty much punishes the audience for watching this film in reality.

What is that choice? It will not spoil the movie for you if I tell. But it will, however, likely convince you not to see it.

This film is separated into 59 chapters. That’s right, 59. Moreover, each chapter’s beginning is announced, as is its end.

Now, I don’t want to think that the filmmakers think us viewers are idiots but when I am told a chapter is ending 58 times, I get it into my head that the filmmakers think I am stupid. I wanted to say ‘I get your movie is episodic. And, given the absurd run-time in part generated by the 117 chapter headings, I would have been able to figure it out just with fade-outs. Everyone else manages without 117 chapter headings. Why can’t you?’ Where was the editor in post saying “This is an alienating decision? You are going to lose much of your potential audience through this, especially when it is distributed digitally and people can just turn it off.’

Numerous walkouts occurred during the screening – as early as Chapter 20-something, I seem to remember – and their was a collective sigh by the audience when Chapter 51 appeared – we had all assumed Chapter 50 would end the film despite the fact that it didn’t resolve anything.

And this is a terrible shame, because within this 59 chapter, 3-hour onslaught of “Hey, guess what audience? You’ve been sitting here for 58 chapters already! And we’ve told you that 115 times!” mess is a great movie.

The actors are all incredible. I can’t decide who was the best, they were all so good. The little girls playing the daughter were incredible. The wife was incredible. And when I think they were both better than the husband, I catch myself because I remember he too was incredible.

And the film builds slowly – so slowly, as this is a 3 hour movie divided into 59 parts – that it takes us a long time to figure out what is going on. And we are thrown the odd curve-ball. But because of that we get the full complexity of this kind of relationship, to perhaps a greater extent than has ever before seen in cinema, at least in my experience.

And it is well shot. And there are lots of poignant and powerful moments.

That would be high praise if I thought anyone wanted to sit through it. I’m still sort of amazed that over half the audience was still there at the end. Honestly, we almost left – and I never leave! – because we were worried we would miss our next movie, a movie we actually wanted to see.

It’s sad, really, because anyone not emotionally close to the project – someone without any practical editing experience even, me for example – could have shaved off 25-35 minutes of the run-time and not affected the story. Hell, it would be a better, perhaps even a great, film. And the thing that’s maddening: this is the ideal subject for a film-school course in “How to edit” and it’s so obvious that anyone could have done it. Anyone except the filmmakers, evidently.


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