The Art of Editing and The Snowman | Folding Ideas

The Art of Editing and The Snowman | Folding Ideas

So in the script I wrote this in a bullet
point as “cold open” because I couldn’t think of anything in specific and that’s
what I do when I script. If I hit a point where I’m not quite sure
what to do I try to just write a sentence or two outside the voice of the script literally
describing what needs to happen to join where the script is at to the point that’s following
it. It’s a very utilitarian method, but it helps
me get around writer’s block and minimize problems where different ideas will make unstated
logical leaps in between. Then the longer I stared at it the more absurd
it became, because, you know, it’s the cold open to The Art of Editing and The Snowman,
and it just sat there, taunting me, practically begging for a joke or some setup for a pun
that would make Joel Schumacher cringe into his seat, and now after building it up, really
hyping the hell out of this idea, just like The Snowman I’m now going to drop this entire
bit and never reference it again. The Snowman is a 2017 film, directed by Tomas
Alfredson, based on the Scandinavian-Noir novel of the same name written by Jo Nesbo. The film stars Michael Fassbender as down-on-his-luck
alcoholic detective Harry Hole as he unravels the identity of a serial killer who abducts
and dismembers women, leaving behind a snowman as a calling card. This film has gained substantial notoriety
for being, uh, a complete forking mess. Even the director agrees. In an interview with the Norwegian national
broadcaster, the NRK, Alfredson suggested that due to the rushed shooting schedule of
thirty days and limited access to locations as much as 10 to 15 percent of the script
hadn’t actually been filmed, leaving huge gaps in the story that needed to be either
bridged or restructured in editing. I would suggest that things are even more
dire than that makes it sound. Failing to shoot fifteen percent of the film
is going to leave literal plot holes so large that the only solution is to excise the plot
lines entirely, leaving even more of the script on the cutting room floor. The end result is delirious. “She said she was going to visit a friend,
but she never came back.” “Why did you come to me, I’ve been suspended.” I’m going to admit I’m excited and nervous
because this one is such a mess that I’m still not sure I entirely have a handle on
the film. Every time I watch it something new jumps
out. There’s always another detail that goes
nowhere, another plot thread that disappears, another scene that connects to events that
were never shown. But we’re going to try! As we get into this I want to re-state the
same thing that I did with Suicide Squad. When people say a movie has bad editing they’re
going to be talking mainly about two different kinds of editing: shot to shot, and scene
to scene, or momentary editing and structural editing. Momentary editing is the nitty gritty editing:
what kinds of cuts are used, where are they placed, how far apart are they spaced, how
well is continuity preserved, does a match edit actually work, does intercut dialogue
feel right, can we follow the action properly, so on and so forth. Structural editing is the bigger picture:
what order are scenes in, how is the movie as a whole paced, when are flashbacks inserted,
are locations and geography properly established, are foreshadowing and callbacks properly implemented,
and all of that. The Snowman, like Suicide Squad, is littered
with both problems. Extending from this, one of the things that
I want to address is how we’re going about the discussion here. We’re talking about the art of editing,
but not exclusively. In a lot of ways editing is simply the vector
that we’re using to discuss other elements of the filmmaking, or more specifically we’re
addressing other elements of the filmmaking because of how they end up manifesting in
the edit. For example, early in the film is a scene
where Harry shows up at work and his superior officer, Gunnar Hagan, gives him a whole “clean
up your act, I can’t keep covering for you” speech in the cafeteria. Stripped to an absolute bare-bones factual
description the scene is fine. The dialogue is fine, the acting is fine,
the pace of the cuts, the flow from close up to insert to medium, the use of split edits,
it’s all fine. But. For some reason almost every single shot in
the scene is blocked with a lateral slide, Harry’s shots moving from right to left,
Gunnar’s moving from left to right. In isolation these are, also, fine, but consideration
wasn’t taken for how these shots would then cut together, and the edit doesn’t consider
the change in motion vector from one shot to the other resulting in a scene that feels
like it’s bouncing back and forth like a ping pong ball. And then spice it up with this jarring edit. The conventional editing style, which is generally
used throughout the film, is to preserve lines of motion from one shot to the next, while
using neutral moments as a visual buffer to give the audience a moment to reset. This is conventional continuity editing, which
is the continuity of action, subject, and motion, with slight discontinuity used to
build tension in what is meant to be an energetic, suspenseful scene. Going back to the cafeteria example, there’s
no motivation for this movement. It’s two characters having a low key conversation
in hushed tones. Maybe using this motion on a couple key bits
of dialogue could add some interest to the scene, or if Harry’s shot had some slight
motion while Gunnar’s was more static it would be conveying emotional state, but simply
having the motion mirrored across every single shot for an entire minute of dialogue, it’s
just dizzying for no purpose. Again, while these issues are going to intersect
several different elements of filmmaking, from the camera work to the script, filmmaking
is symbiotic to the degree that flaws or failures in one area will impact the ability for others
to do their jobs. So while we will be talking about a whole
host of issues we will be approaching those issues from the direction of the edit. Before we go further we should probably address
the name issue, and people who are familiar with the source material already know where
I’m going with this. I’ve already said the main character’s
name is Harry Hole, and that’s not entirely accurate, but it is accurate to this film. In Norweigian the character’s name would
be pronounced closer to Har-rey Hoo-le, [Mispronouncing name] which if you were to translate to English
would be Harry Hill, but the filmmakers opted not to keep the proper Norwegian pronunciation,
nor to translate the name, but instead to just anglicize it to Harry Hole. “Harry Hole?” “Harry Hole” “Mister Hole?” “This is Harry Hole’s phone.” “Ah, the great Harry Hole” I don’t have a point here, but it is very
funny. In the film’s prologue, a woman and her
son are visited by a police officer named Jonas. The boy believes that the abusive man is his
uncle, but discovers that he is, in fact, his father after he sees Jonas and his mother
having sex. The woman threatens to tell Jonas’ wife
about their son, to which Jonas threatens to abandon them entirely, and drives off. The woman and her son follow, but the woman
slips into a catatonic haze, drifts off the road onto a lake, and refuses to leave the
car as the ice cracks, leaving the boy to stand and watch as his mother and the car
sink into the lake. The Snowman centers around alcoholic detective
Harry Hole as he tries to fix both his professional and personal lives by focusing on work instead
of drinking. He has a rocky but caring relationship with
his ex girlfriend Rakel and her son Oleg, who is possibly also his biological son. Harry falls into the snowman case when he
meets Katrine Bratt, a junior detective just transferred into Oslo from Bergen. Katrine is already pursuing the snowman killer
for personal reasons as she suspects her father, detective Gert Rafto, was murdered by the
killer nine years earlier while he was investigating a string of murders in Bergen, though she
keeps this connection a secret from her coworkers. While investigating the disappearance of Birte
Becker Harry lifts the cold case files from Katrine’s bag. Katrine suspects that a recent series of missing
persons’ reports might be connected to the old case, and though Harry is initially dismissive
of the theory he comes around after reading the case files that night, and the two discuss
the possible connections over breakfast the next morning. A few days later a similar missing person
is reported with the caller asking for Harry in specific. When Harry and Katrine respond to the call
they find the missing person, Sylvia Otterson, alive and well in her home. However shortly after leaving a second call
is placed, and returning to the Otterson farm Sylvia’s decapitated body is found in the
chicken coop, with her head being found propped up on a snowman at the bottom of a large storm
drain. With a confirmed murder Harry is given clearance
to set up a special task force to clear the murders quickly in order to avoid negative
international press that might hurt Oslo’s bid for the non-International-Olympic-Comittee-trademark-infringing
generic Winter Games. Katrine suspects the killer is slimeball industrialist
Arve Stop, who had an affair with the original murder victim nine years earlier, or if not
him then Stop’s friend, Doctor Idar Vetlesen, who has some connection to several of the
victims via the reproductive services clinic that he works at. Harry discovers Katrine’s personal stake
in the case when he travels to Bergen to follow up on clues Bergen detectives failed to investigate
during the earlier case, as they had ruled Rafto’s death a suicide. While he is away Katrine intercepts a notification
that Birte Becker’s phone has been reactivated, with the GPS indicating it’s in the home
of Doctor Vetlesen. Ignoring regulations and possibly seeking
revenge Katrine breaks into Vetlesen’s home where she finds his body in the garage, decapitated
via shotgun. Katrine is suspended, but investigation of
Vetlesen’s home uncovers the dismembered remains of Birte Becker and a victim otherwise
dropped from the movie named Ms. Dahl. “How many bodies?” “Birta Becker and Ms. Dahl.” Actually, on my seventh viewing of the movie
I did catch one earlier reference to Ms. Dahl, from when Katrine drops Harry off after they
start investigating Birta Becker’s disappearance. “And Harry, she’s not the only one. Look, this is Hilga Dahl. Missing two weeks, similar age, two children,
unhappy marriage.” On one hand it was established earlier in
the movie, on the other hand they never actually investigate that disappearance, and the reference
goes by incredibly quickly because Rebecca Ferguson half-whispers all of her lines. “Look this is Hilga Dahl.” While the Oslo police rule Vetlesen’s death
a suicide Harry suspects it has been staged, as it is nearly identical to the staging of
Rafto’s body, and also, you know, incredibly suspicious. Katrine, convinced that Stop must be the killer,
attempts to seduce him at a fundraiser. He gives her a key to his hotel suite and
tells her to wait for him there. She goes to the room and sets up surveillance
in the form of the most conspicuous spy device possible, but is intercepted, kidnapped, and
killed by the real killer before Stop even arrives. The following morning Harry finds Katrine’s
body sitting in her car outside his apartment, her finger having been severed so the killer
can use her fingerprint to access her computer. Returning to the Becker household and talking
with Birta’s husband, Filip, Harry pieces together the identity of the killer, Rakel’s
boyfriend Mathias, a plastic surgeon who also substituted at Vetlesen’s clinic, and has
been killing women who have been unfaithful to their partners and had abortions as surrogate
revenge aginst his mother who, by his logic, abandoned him when she died. At the moment that Harry has put it all together,
Mathias has kidnapped Rakel and Oleg and takes them out to the cabin where the film began. Harry confronts Mathias at the cabin, saving
Rakel and Oleg, but losing a finger in the scuffle. Harry then pursues Mathias out into the woods,
onto the frozen lake. Mathias shoots Harry in the shoulder, but before he is able to
finish Harry off, Mathias steps on a patch of thin ice and sinks into the lake. In the epilogue Harry is back at work with
a new prosthetic finger. Credits roll. “I’ll take it.” I’m not cutting that short, by the way. There is zero wrap up. None. None at all. Nothing. It just, the movie just ends. That’s, it just ends. It’s just what happens, just ends. So, I don’t know if that montage does justice
to just how consistently bonkers the editing is in this film. Writing a summary is actually a challenge
because, like, I need the words I’m saying to make sense, but I worry that in doing so
I’ve fixed problems with the film by omitting details that clash with comprehensibility. Like, I skipped describing the scenes with
the fumigator that Harry keeps running into because I don’t know how to describe what
these scenes are doing, and he just stops showing up past a certain point. There’s a not-insubstantial amount of screen
time given to a woman who I presume is a sex-trafficing victim that Vetleson has aquired on behalf
of Stop, and this is, I guess, a red herring to implicate either of those characters as
the possible murderer, but she also just stops showing up at a certain point with no explanation,
or conclusion. The inexplicable editing of the film begins
pretty much right out the gate. Like, the issues here are absolutely not limited
to just characters that disappear out of the story or motives and timelines that don’t
make any sense. The cutting of the opening moments, as Jonas
arrives at the cabin, is extremely over-tuned, which is to say that the shots being in the
order that they are in is fine, but the temporal relationship between the edits is too abrupt. Just to be clear, this is on the magnitude
of a number of frames with each shot. To isolate one cut in specific that might
make this easier to understand, Mathias’ mother puts on a sweater and moves to leave
the room, and in the next shot is on the stairs down to the living room. The shot selection and screen direction are
fine, but the temporal gap between the shots is too big. The first shot ends a few frames too soon,
and the second shot begins a few frames too late, making the cut feel wrong, like she’s
teleported, and that same problem happens with every single shot for almost two straight
minutes at the start of the movie. It makes for an intro that is disjointed and
rushed in a way that strikes me as very odd for a film that already has a problem with
not having enough footage. Like, especially since this is the opening
of the film. The introduction is so important to setting
audience expectations that I don’t feel like I really need to explain why it’s a
bad idea for your film to start off with a series of cuts that are so needlessly jarring
that they look like mistakes. The one half-theory that I have is that it
was originally cut to music or a title sequence that was later dropped, that there was some
other creative element that dictated the pacing and rhythm and is no longer present. The only evidence I have to support this,
though, is my own intuition and the jankiness of some of the actual titles. At the end of the prologue Mathias’ mother
sinks into the water, then the camera tilts up and holds on this shot for pretty much
exactly long enough that you would expect the show title to appear. It’s a nice, moody static shot with lots
of white space. The Snowman. Beat, beat, cut to Harry’s vodka bottle. I mean, that makes sense to me. It doesn’t just look like it was edited
for the main title, it looks like it was shot for the main title. Instead the film cuts from this to a black
frame where the studio credits play, one after another, flat font, for 22 seconds before
cutting to Harry’s vodka bottle for Fassbender’s credit and the main title. I’m just guessing here, this is pure speculation,
but this white text on a black screen looks like a temp placeholder that someone threw
in just to make sure it didn’t get forgotten, and then no one could agree on where these
should actually go, and then the production ran out of time and money and they just never
got replaced. But, okay, so even if that’s the reason
for why the intro is cut the way that it is, it doesn’t even start to explain the baffling
creative decisions in the next major scene, when Harry returns to his apartment and finds
a fumigator spraying for mold, a scene where, across a series of jump cuts, Harry shoots
at the man, who doesn’t seem to notice, and remains unbothered by the fact that a
stranger is pointing a gun at him. Harry then just… stands there. There is, there’s no intelligible cause
and effect here, just a series of loosely connected shots, and this will be the pace
for the rest of the movie. Moving on, I want to talk for a bit about
ADR. ADR is automated dialogue replacement, sometimes
also referred to as dubbing, looping, or post-sync. These are processes where an actor’s on-set
vocal performance is replaced in post-production with audio from a studio performance, possibly
by a different actor. I touched on this a bit in my video on The
Legend of Chun Li “The dialogue in the film has overwhelmingly
been redubbed, which is actually part of why the performances feel so flat and disjointed. The emotion of the face and lips just doesn’t
quite match the sound that you’re hearing. Also there’s a different character to the
dialogue that’s recorded in a sound booth versus the dialog that’s recorded on set. It’s subtle, but pervasive.” Now, a thing that I want to stress here is
that ADR isn’t inherently bad. Basically every movie has some, or even a
lot of ADR. ADR is a problem-solving tool, and it can
be very good at solving problems. That said, heavy use of ADR is a sign that
there were a lot of problems that needed solving. The elephant in the room here is, of course,
Val Kilmer’s performance, in which all of Kilmer’s lines have been replaced. “Can you tell me, what, was your wife seeing
anyone?” In 2015 as part of a battle against throat
cancer Kilmer underwent a procedure on his trachea that permanently altered his voice,
reducing it to little more than a rasp, and leaving his tongue quite swollen. “I had a, a tumour a couple years ago, and
it’s just a, a mystery.” “Just for no reason?” “Yeah, I’m, I’m fully recovered, except
for this tongue, so I sound a bit like Sly Stallone on Quaaludes.” During his performance in The Snowman it is
clearly, visibly difficult for him to speak, which makes the difference between the facial
performance and the sound of the ADR so harsh. “I need some information on a patient, Layla
Orson?” Additionally attempts are made to mask the
issue by finding ways to avoid having Val Kilmer speak on screen, and unfortunately
they do this – they start this the first time – in just the worst, most obvious way possible. “She said she was going to visit a friend,
and she never came back.” “Why did you come to me? I’ve been suspended.” Now, the reason I want to specifically focus
on ADR isn’t just because of Val Kilmer’s dialogue. It’s a big part and is instantly noticeable
to pretty much everyone, but it’s not the biggest contributor to the deeper problems
with the film. The movie is actually plagued with a lot of
moments where lines have been added over b-roll or reaction shots in order to construct entirely
new interactions. A really obvious example for demonstrating
this is in the conversation between Harry and the child Josephine Becker. The conversation is shot and edited otherwise
conventionally, a standard shot-reverse shot with a bias towards the character who is currently
speaking. Every line of dialogue is, in whole or in
part, on screen. You’ve seen dialogue like this a hundred
times before. It’s conventional, comfortable, and familiar. It adheres to the standard visual grammar
of filmmaking. This makes it all the more jarring when, at
the end of the conversation, we get this. “He cried last week.” “Why did you build the snowman facing the
house?” “I didn’t build the snowman.” Both sides of this exchange, the question
and answer, are hidden off-screen. This is an attempt in post-production to fill
the gap that explains why Harry knows Josephine didn’t build the snowman, and thus the snowman
is suspicious. Not that that actually really matters, because
the characters will never directly discuss the snowmen either way. The way that plot lines have been excised
or reorganized results in some truly disorienting stuff, like the whole sequence around Oleg’s
birthday present. So, Harry has gotten Oleg tickets to a concert. We first see them at the beginning of the
movie when Harry stumbles back to his apartment. We are then given this sequence of events
in order. Harry attends Oleg’s hockey game, during
which Mathias gives Harry a prescription for sleeping pills. When asked if they want to get something to
eat, Harry says he’ll get something with Oleg after the show. Harry and Oleg take the train to the concert,
eating ice cream, and talking about Oleg’s desire to track down his biological father. Harry and Oleg have a conversation about the
father/son school trip that’s coming up, and Oleg agrees to bring Harry. Oleg asks what the surprise is. Harry says “let’s go find out.” Jump cut to the two of them walking towards
the building, Harry, off camera, explains that someone at work gave him the tickets. “Someone at work got me the tickets.” [Unusual singing] At the concert Oleg gets a text message saying
“urgent message for Harry”, the two of them leave the concert so Harry can make a
phone call, and then in a conversation constructed entirely out of off-camera dialogue Katrine
tells Harry that a report of another missing woman came in asking for him by name, and
they need to go now, she’s on her way to pick them up. Aside from the utter lack of continuity between
the close up of the phone and the shot of the two of them in the seats, and the fact
that Harry clearly says “can I borrow your phone, I need to make a call” just to re-state
what happens here: Katrine sends Oleg, a child she doesn’t know and has never met, a text
message for Harry, even though Harry has a phone. Katrine drives Harry and Oleg to Rakel’s
home and drop Oleg off. Harry gets back in the car with Katrine and,
in another bit of ADR, tells her to take him home, they’ll drive out to the farm in the
morning. “Take me home. We’ll go in the morning.” As the cherry on top, in the next shot there’s
a minor continuity error as Harry is in his apartment and already has the pills that he
just got the prescription for and hasn’t had a chance to actually get yet. An even simpler example of a scene or transition
being constructed out of b-roll comes a short time later. Harry and Katrine leave the farm house and
then, over a shot of a car driving down the highway, they recieve a call telling them
to go back, and decide to turn around, but the car just keeps driving. “The call came in two minutes ago. Her husband asked specifically for Inspector
Hole.” “How could?” “Turn the car around.” And the timeline of these events, as presented,
is all over the place. The edit suggests that it’s only been a
few minutes since they left the farm, and are thus only a few minutes away, but it’s
pitch dark by the time they get back. Hell, the farm house itself is worthy of its
own consideration when it comes to bizarre spatial editing. When the characters first arrive there’s
an establishing shot of the property, where there’s this large, prominent cement structure
right next to the house, which is right next to the chicken coop. On the second visit, again driving next to
the large cement structure, after Sylvia’s twin sister tells them Sylvia is missing,
Harry finds Sylvia’s body in the chicken coop, which is, again, right next to the house,
then there’s a shot of Harry riding on the back of a snowmobile in the middle of a field,
which he jumps off and approaches the big cement structure, which is also right next
to the farm house. So why this whole bit with the snowmobile? Where is this? Rafto’s entire sub-plot, told in flashbacks
leading up to his murder, is largely just here to fill time. It doesn’t actually tell us much about the
old murders that would help unravel the new murders, and Rafto himself is a one-note character
who doesn’t really do any meaningful investigation. There’s also a really good example of how
the standard language of filmmaking can work against the film, because most of the segments
showing the audience Rafto’s story are structured, visually, as flashbacks, but they make no
sense as flashbacks. Like, okay, what is a flashback in the first
place? It’s a memory. The standard structure for a flashback is
that at an appropriate narrative moment a character has reason to reflect on things
that happened in the past, and then those events are shown to the audience. This can be a strong memory trigger, a character
actively telling a story to others, or a character getting the information from an external source
like a journal. This is how the Rafto sequences are built
into the film. Harry browses through Katrine’s documents,
which triggers the flashbacks. He looks at an old magazine and transitions
into a private conversation nine years earlier. The problem is that the language of film implies
that these are Harry’s memories. The magazine contains no meaningful information
on its own, it certainly doesn’t contain this conversation, and the narrative implication
is that seeing the magazine has reminded Harry of this moment. But there’s no way that these could be Harry’s
memories, and they’re not. These are parallel sequences depicted for
the benefit of the audience, but it creates a real problem by implying things that Harry
knows, but doesn’t know. It makes it difficult for the audience to
follow the story because they’re not sure what Harry does and doesn’t know, and if
the audience is unclear on that, if they can’t follow the protagonist’s train of thought,
then the protagonist’s actions start to look random and unmotivated. This is pretty much exactly what happens in
The Snowman. That’s not even the film’s most baffling
use of cinematic language. So much of this film is shot through dirty
windows, car windows, tiny windows, or multiple windows, that as a visual metaphor it gets
over-saturated to the point it becomes meaningless. It’s one thing to use it sparingly for specific
kinds of scenes or for specific characters and moments to imply something emotional about
the exchange, the characters’ relationships with each other, or the audience’s relationship
to the story, but past a certain point it stops meaning anything on its own and just
becomes an extremely noticeable aesthetic choice. There’s also a fundamental tone problem
with the film. I know that comes up a lot in the movies I
talk about, but it’s a common problem. From what I understand, Jo Nesbo’s approach
to the serial killer genre hews closer to black comedy. Not outright farce, but definitely a bit absurdist
because, well, serial killer fiction is a bit absurd. The idea of a murderer whose calling card
is a sinister snowman is inherently silly, but the film plays it 100% straight, resulting
in numerous moments in the film where the soundtrack ratchets up the tension while the
camera lingers on a frowning snowman. I actually laughed out loud in the theatre
when the film pulls a fake-out leading up to Katrine’s death. She leaves her apartment and glances at a
regular, three-tier snowman with a carrot nose, before the camera swings around to reveal
to the audience that on the back side it’s actually a Sad Evil Snowman! BWAAAAAH!!! It’s a very, very funny moment, but I’m
not sure the movie agrees. So far we’ve mostly been pulling out examples
of janky, sloppy scenes that are hard to follow due to poor flow and continuity, but the ultimate
casualty of the deep restructuring is the core mystery itself. Now, the standard formula for a mystery is
to start with a bunch of possible suspects and then narrow them down as the characters
follow leads, eliminate possibilities, and build a case. The Snowman involves so many fanciful leaps,
such as the killer getting in and out of locked rooms, hauling numerous bodies long distances
without notice, meticulously staged murder scenes, and so few meaningful details of psychology
or motive, that leading into the climax the only suspects that have really been eliminated
are the ones that are dead. Outside of the scene in the diner, the characters
don’t really discuss the case. They don’t talk about clues, they don’t
argue for or against specific suspects, they rarely talk about motive or opportunity or
logistics. Harry assembles a team to work on the case,
but they don’t do anything. They aren’t utilized or consulted, and aside
from one baffling moment where one of them tells Harry he can’t have a copy of a crime
scene photo they don’t actually interact with the case at all. “Can I keep this?” “No.” “Can I keep this?” “Sure.” Clues that are shown to the audience, like
cigarette butts and footprints, aren’t even collected. The one scene where the case is actually discussed
in meaningful detail, the bit in the diner, is still full of so many seemingly unmotivated
responses and disconnected shots that even after repeat viewings it’s difficult to
parse what, exactly, the audience is meant to learn from this conversation, and the whole
is made all the more baffling by ending on the shot of Harry turning the plate of sausage
to reveal he’s cut it apart. It’s a dramatic visual, but is, forgive
the pun, disconnected from anything that the characters are actually talking about. The preceding line is like “are you hungry?”
which actually makes it look like Harry is taunting her with this action, like the dismembered
sausage is supposed to get under her skin? But I don’t know, because why would he do
that? The note that Harry first receives is at best
an incidental detail that’s discarded long before the midpoint of the film. It’s also worth mentioning that the note
used prominently in the film’s marketing, Mister Police I gave you all the clues, appears
nowhere in the movie, though Harry does find a stack of blue stationary in Mathias’ house. There’s a deeper problem here in the film
not managing to follow whole events or let us in on Harry’s train of thought. He takes a huge detour to Bergen for extremely
unclear reasons, only to discover that Katrine is Rafto’s daughter, but that only sort
of explains why she’s fixated on Arve Stop and does nothing to advance the actual case. On top of that, Stop’s viability as a suspect
is itself tenuous at best. While there’s a reasonable implication that
maybe nine years ago Stop killed his mistress to bury an embarrassing news story, and then
maybe killed the alcoholic off-duty cop that was investigating that disappearance, there’s
no reason to think that Stop has anything to do with the new murders, or even any of
the old murders that weren’t his mistress. Nothing is even suggested about how he would
fit the serial killer profile or have opportunity to kill virtually any of the victims. To cap it off, Harry then teleports back to
Oslo from Bergen. I’m not usually that much of a stickler
for movies taking some liberties with travel time, except in this case we already devoted
a significant amount of screen time to the fact that travelling from Oslo to Bergen is
a substantial trip. Like, in real life the express train between
the two cities is six and a half hours. A movie primes the audience’s expectations
of itself, and how that manifests here is that there are so many baffling cuts and creative
decisions that it’s hard to tell which are deliberate stylistic choices and which are
just errors. Random unmotivated jump cut! The movie is so full of inconsistencies in
its basic structure that it inadvertently trains the audience to notice inconsistencies
that they would probably overlook in a better film. The reveal of Mathias as the killer feels
almost plucked out of a hat, with most of the justification being concentrated in the
reveal itself. While on one hand it’s incredibly easy to
identify Mathias as the killer because he’s the character with a lot of screen time who
otherwise has nothing to do, what Roger Ebert called the Law of Economy of Characters, and
he’s the only character aside from Harry that smokes, it’s also difficult because
the movie is otherwise such a mess, littered with missing details and dropped trains of
thought, that the normal rules don’t apply. This is actually one of the things I love
about bad movies: they tend to be unpredictable. Granted it tends to take the form of being
random rather than clever, but hey, it’s something. Also it’s really funny that Mathias is killing
people for “getting too close” when seemingly no one actually suspects him. We don’t find out what Rafto knew, and there’s
no indication that Vetleson knew anything. Mathias assaults, kidnaps, and kills Katrine,
but she was single-mindedly pursuing Stop and doesn’t even really know he exists. Now, maybe he killed Katrine to frame Stop,
but it doesn’t matter story-wise because no one follows up on anything directly connected
to Katrine’s murder, and the last we see of Stop is him sitting in his hotel room looking
sad that he didn’t get to bang the cute brunette that was ready to jump him at the
party. And that’s weird that a red herring like
Stop would just be dropped from the story instead of being in some way actively resolved,
because the movie clearly sets up that he has implicating evidence when he takes Katrine’s
photo, proving that he was one of the last people to see her alive. Compounding that, the movie’s poor communication
of time makes it look like Katrine is murdered to protect Mathias’ identity, and then the
very next day he kidnaps his girlfriend and her son then calls Harry and all but tells
him he’s the killer. It’s not really a game of cat and mouse,
but a game of a plastic surgeon recklessly murdering a whole bunch of people, and the
police who are too stupid to catch him because they don’t bother to collect evidence. “He was watching us the whole time. He’s playing games.” I’m not normally inclined to crawl through
trailers for differences in footage. It’s not weird for trailers to use elements
that aren’t present in the final film and I don’t think that’s wrong or deceptive,
but in this specific case the trailers are a bit of a forensic aid in assembling a picture
of exactly why certain things seem as particularly odd as they do. The ending of the movie feels like it was
constructed entirely out of juxtaposing disconnected shots that were never meant to go together,
because it probably was. The eyelines between these two shots don’t
line up, the characters don’t interact, and Harry is clearly, like, raising a rolling
shutter or something and not walking into the room. One of the trailers for the film feature a
number of shots of Mathias’ cabin as it appears in the climax, and most importantly
features shots of the cabin exploding and Harry trying to get into a burning building. Clearly the original ending of the film involved
Oleg and Rakel dying, or at least appearing to die. And while we’re crawling through the trailers,
we might as well indulge in some forensics of our own. Since we just talked about the penultimate
shot of Harry where he is clearly opening a garage door or something and not walking
into the cabin, one of the trailers features this frame of Harry opening a garage door
to reveal a body or possibly two sitting in a car. Several other notes from the Snowman are featured. There are snippets of a conversation in the
team’s room at the police station where Harry has this seemingly quite important line. “Building snowmen, cutting things up into
little pieces, that’s what a child does to establish order.” There’s a snowman kill that otherwise doesn’t
match any location in the final film. One of the bigger, and odder, things from
the trailers has to be very prominent use of footage from a very different sequence
involving Sylvia Otterson. With Sylvia being pursued across a cement
structure, through the woods, and getting her foot caught in a metal foothold trap,
a sequence that I’ve been told is more book accurate than Sylvia being overpowered and
killed in the chicken coop. Also the colour grade in the trailer is extremely
different from the final movie. Now, it’s not weird for the grade in a trailer
to be different from the final grade, but I’m at a loss to think of another high-profile
example where the difference was this stark. The trailer is much more saturated and higher
contrast. This detail probably wouldn’t have stood
out to me at all if it weren’t for the fact that the grade in the finished film is so
muted that when I watch it I feel like I’m watching untouched footage. I don’t think it’s truly untouched, but
I’m not going to do a shot-by-shot audit of dynamic range to confirm, and, like, here’s
some sample Alexa XT raw footage from Arri’s website – the Alexa XT was the camera they
used on the film – and here’s The Snowman. Pretty close! Can you blame me?! I mean, I don’t think this is what happened,
I don’t want to think this is what happened, I think this is probably just a creative decision
that bugs me, personally, but if someone on the street walked up to me and told me that
they accidentally mastered the film without applying the grade, and then the producers
just left it because it would cost too much to fix, I wouldn’t call them a liar. So that’s The Snowman, or at least a lot
of The Snowman. It is both infuriating and fascinating because
it’s actually pretty rare to see a film in this condition. Typically if something were this incomplete
it just wouldn’t get released at all, but instead we get to witness the end product
of the spiral of an unfinished movie. Because of what they failed to shoot, the
filmmakers needed to cut more than just what was missing, taking deep bites out of everything
else in the film, resulting in a relentless parade of things that just don’t quite line

100 thoughts on “The Art of Editing and The Snowman | Folding Ideas

  1. Could you do a video about the amazing editing in The Haunting of Hill house? Thanks!


  3. seems kinda interesting. wonder if the book was any good.

  4. The whole movie I thought that Harry was the one who’s mother had died in the car, so the whole time I was trying to figure out what that contributed to the plot and his behaviour. I was basically slightly confused the entire
    movie. Do y’all know if that was a deliberate mislead or was it just more weird editing? Like when they went from the flashback straight to Harry’s hand I was like okay this is the same person. I assume that was deliberate but it was also a really annoying choice because it made the plot not make sense in a weird way VS. A good mystery way. Did anyone else feel similarly?

  5. Has anyone read the script? Did it at least have preproduction potential?

  6. Man you are doing God's work.

  7. I was thinking about a very different The Snowman film. Lol. Intresting though. Feel like there has been a trend of movies where it is like "How did this get made?"


  9. Ok. I think I will not waste time watching this film. Makes me sad about Val Kilmer, though.

  10. Honestly, whenever I watch something that goes deep into editing or other such filmmaking topics that are in the vein of "you only notice it if something goes wrong" I'm honestly baffled that any movies can get made at all.

  11. Couldn't watch the video, too distracted by the fact that you're wearing a vest over a hoodie

  12. He really isn't cutting that summary short.
    I left the theater room once he gets to the cabin, I was like theres probably 20mins left of garbage I don't want to see. I'm out.
    I go to the restroom and after a quick pee the rest of the theater comes out. I was like did they all walk out too??
    I caught the ending on hbo later and was just dumbfounded at the ending.

  13. Fascinating. I've seen/heard a lot of runs at this film on quality, editing, directorial choices, ADR, and the like, but you really do an excellent job of weaving together a tapestry of what likely occurred behind the scenes that brought us to the failure that is the final product.

  14. So you're saying it's less of a film, and more like life.

  15. Thank you for feeding us culture, Uncle.

  16. “Pretty close!” waves hands “Can ya blame me?!” – This feels like an accurate re-enactment of the editor presenting the finished cut.

  17. Man, this movie was already immensely disappointing and disjointed when I watched it on DVD about a year ago, but this video just makes even clearer how horrible it truly was. Even just cutting all of the Val Kilmer related stuff, which I am surprised they didn't do given his throat cancer at the time and given his scenes serve next to no actual purpose, would not have saved this movie from still being one of most poorly edited things I have ever watched. How you got through it more than once, much less entire seven times, is a mystery.

  18. It's been so long, and I'm just happy to see your work.

  19. The comment about the windows, and Alfredson shooting through them, reminds me so much of the mediocre show The Outsider. The way that show is shot is so obnoxious. It's as if they saw that shot of McConaughey in True Detective (when he wakes up, out of focus, against a white wall) and decided to shoot everything with extremely shallow depth and/or some object taking up part of the frame, in the foreground. It becomes a parody of itself so quickly, it's absurd.

  20. This is a car-wreck that you can't look away from.

  21. youtube recommended me The Snowman (the children's movie) after I watched this

  22. so you're telling me that the killer dismembers the bodies, and builds snowmen, but they never have him hide body parts inside a snowman or have the two things directly interact past the one time he puts a lady's head on one? smh missed opportunity

  23. Been waiting for this video!


  25. Tell me they kept the thing about having no nipples. That was the moment I completely lost it with the book. Before, I just felt that witht he snowmen and the electric chicken decapitator it was hokey and a bit overblown, but once they got to "I knew he was my father because he didn't have any nipples", it tipped over into completely insane. Please please say it was left in the film.

  26. So budget limitations leading to confused editing of incomplete film material that misunderstands the subtle humor of the source material? Sounds like most German movies.

  27. Man… dropping the cold open like that… that’s cold 🥶

  28. i was actually excited to see this movie before it came out. Tomas Alfredson is (or was) a great director, i love "Let the right one in" and "Tinker tailor soldier spy". Such a disappointment!

  29. It’s astounding how you can make me appreciate the techniques in a bad film. Almost like they have their own art form 🤔

  30. Honestly thought this movie was going to be a horror comedy at first because of the snowman drawing

  31. Love these videos on editing. Have you seen the final episodes of Season 5 of Arrested Development? They would make great material. Especially the ADR example here reminds me a lot of that season.

  32. I think I watched this movie…

  33. great job as always!

  34. 23:59 So, about that.. It's what you get when you start adapting a book series from book number 7 i guess. Anyway, in one of the first books, which takes place around year 2000, it is firmly established that Harry does not like phones. He is using one, because he needs to keep in touch with the other people. Maybe that was the motivation in this scene, as well…

  35. Speaking of names and editing, since you pointed out his name is hole, I kept hearing you say "whole" and for a second thought you were talking about him. Stuff like this happened in the movie too, like at the 36min mark in your video you show the clip of "He was watching us the whole time".
    Im not sure I know where I am going with this or how to say it more eloquently. But movies where a character or important thing is a homonym it is very jarring to me. I never get confused at what they are talking about but its like a little ping in my brain momentarily telling me the character is doing something.

  36. What I've learnt from this videos is that editing is fucking difficult

  37. I love this type of video so very much.

  38. I honestly wonder if the director wasn't lying about the reason why there wasn't enough footage. Yes, he probably ran out of time (which is his fault 100%. Professional filmmakers have a shooting schedule. If you're not making your days you hurry up or simplify your shots.) I think it's possible that a lot of footage was simply unusable…possibly out of focus? Did he not shoot any coverage? Or did he plan a super artsy style that fell apart? The 'Harry Hole' non-translation hints that maybe there was an idea to make this comedic…was the 'comedy' so terrible that they had to rescue it in post?

    In a surprisingly frank interview on Norwegian television, Alfredson said that, due to a compressed production schedule, he and his crew “didn’t get the whole story,” and adds that, “when we started cutting we discovered that a lot was missing.” (The Den of Geek)

    How did he not know he didn't have the whole story until after shooting was complete and actual editing began? How is this possible?

  39. why did I think this was a video on the art of editing and the snowman (1982)? like I genuinely though you were going to go off about how like, the santa dance sequence with all the snowmen in the forest was out of place or something, maybe you had a strong opinion about the song "walking in the air".


  41. I thought this was going to be about the cartoon…

  42. Can I just say a crime novel about "A plastic surgeon recklessly killing people in a paranoid fit and the police too stupid to catch him because they lazily refuse to collect evidence" would be an amazing black humor book?

  43. "It's all… fine

    B u t c: "

  44. Could you do a critique of a well edited and put together film to show how things should be done. This would contrast nicely with the ‘train wrecks’. Many thanks.

  45. To me, The Snowman will always be the British 1982 animated short film. A christmas classic.

  46. The first book in this series, The Bat, is set on Australia and there's a running gag of people saying Harry Hole and him correcting their pronunciation

  47. Oh! It's Harry Hole. All I've heard throughout the film was Hairy Hole.

  48. Harry Hole: Providing the people of his community with investigations and investigative accessories.

  49. can't wait for the director's cut with all of the missing shots and proper grading once the 10th anniversary of this train wreck rolls around, a la the room (and even the room had better editing, which is saying something)

  50. I have waited so long for this! Awesome work as always, dude.

  51. I’m gonna scream exactly like @23:18 whenever someone mentions buying tickets to anything.
    “My boyfriend got us tickets to see Black Panther 2.”

  52. I guess the real dismemberment victim was the movie.

  53. I hate movies, but I'm in love with watching Dan talk about them.

  54. @7:22 "ah, the great, hairy hole"

  55. This film was so uncomfy to watch due to secondhand embarrassment on the part of…everyone involved including myself as the viewer. Poor Val Kilmer.

  56. Algorithm boosting comment expressing opinion on clickbait title!


    I never forgave the Razzies for snubbing this movie over the Emoji Movie. Yes! The Emoji Movie sucked but A. We all knew it's gonna suck and B. It was a finished movie!

    The Snowman got talented actors, a decent director, two oscar-winning editors and this movie not only made Michael Fassbender synonymous with Box Office Poison but they didn't film at max 15% of the script, which is a lot for a movie.

  58. Yo keeping his voice would've been awesome

  59. The color grading issue might be because they Stockholm Syndromed themselves into liking the low contrast look of the ungraded RAW footage. Always use temp grades while editing, folks.

    It's also interesting to see how much footage from the trailer ended up on the cutting room floor, since the trailer is actually really good. It might be the biggest drop in quality from trailer to movie in cinema history.

  60. "Have you met my brother, Plot?"

  61. The cut scenes featured a young Harry Hole being bullied in school because of his name 😂

  62. A new The Art of Editing with dramatically high effort put into? That's fantastic, thank you, Dan <3



  64. I would say that heavy use of ADR being symptomatic of an issue during filming really depends on the film and how it is being used. Mad Max Fury Road is almost entirely ADR (if not completely ADR), but that is because they filmed almost everything practically, so they couldn't get any useable dialogue on set over the engine noises. In the live action Jungle Book movie where it was pretty much just a kid on a sound stage, I also believe they didn't bother with keeping the on set sound as anything more than scratch so that Jon Favreau could just talk the kid through the scene. Sometimes you either just can't get good sound (like an ext shot on a windy day) or there is no point to it (like if 90% of your characters are cgi beings whose voice will be recorded in a booth anyway). But if, as you say, they are using it to add in a bunch of lines or something like that… yeah. That's a bad sign.

  65. If only you had mentioned the grading before I checked my phone’s brightness 5 times lmao

  66. I've never wanted a film editor friend more than in this moment so I could just anonymously leave that ominous note from the end of the video on their desk

  67. DI time is expensive. My bet would be they ran out of money to get it graded properly and it was such a mess no one wanted to pay to finish the film. Titles are among the last to be done as well so it would fit if they just had to stop everything at half finished.

    They shot this with a dark serious vibe and somewhere along the line someone watched a cut where they hated the dark ending of Harry's family being potentially killed. Assuming that was practical, they spent money on all that pyro, and probably shot a lot of footage. Then they have to can a bunch of it, pick up any reshoots they can for the new ending. $35m (what the internet reports it's budget was) isn't nothing, but it's not a ton of money for a film either. They clearly had a lot of issues going into this if they weren't able to shoot 15% of their script.

  68. I wonder why they didn’t do reshoots like anywhere else to fill in those gaps? I mean sure it’s expensive but surely if you’re already in the sunk cost of the movie why not just do the reshoots for the other 10%?

  69. Your videos are always a joy to watch 🙂

  70. this is very hard to watch while high 🙁
    but i bet its gerat though

  71. Can I point out that this gentleman is very handsome or should I think of a more intellectual comment to make?

  72. A travesty of a movie, especially considering the incredible talent of the director. "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" is one of my all time favorites.

  73. Man, this movie sounds on paper like a movie I would have loved for the whole video to just be explaining how bad it is.

  74. 30 secs in. That's good advice. Like.

  75. I thought Harry Hole was the character's name in the book's translation?

  76. It was a pity they didn't go for the absurdist take. The fact they kept Hole seems to point to a more humorous film. After all, according to the wiki, the book following this one has Hole fighting the villain on top of a volcano.Even the lil snowmen were begging for some black humour!

    At least, we finally have the video 😁. It was really interesting to learn about these editing issues that are harder to notice.

  77. I know these videos are probably hard to script, record, and edit, but the art of editing is really fascinating for people like me who mostly learn about filmmaking from, well, youtubers. So I hope there will be more to come.

  78. Harry's Hole movie has been wrecked by this childish name joke

  79. Is it ironic a movie about plot points that melt away is called The Snowman?

  80. Mmmmm back go to relisten to the How Did This Get Made about this.

  81. Folding Ideas: spends almost a minute hyping the audience up for a pun about The Snowman and cold openings

    Also Folding Ideas: lays down a super sick burn instead

  82. Harry Howl? Harry Hole, that is unfortunately shitty name.

  83. Love Fassbender and this movie could have been so much more. I guess that makes it worse because I saw the potential of this move being great and there of moments where I thought were good but it just lets you down…

  84. you're my least favorite rigid human

    but def top 10 foldable human

  85. Do CATS!

  86. To be honest, I liked Val Kilmer's ADR, I thought it was jarring in an interesting way. And I was happy to see that he could still get work even with his limited ability to speak, I was just happy that he was able to put himself out there, even with the work around.

  87. Art of Editing: Bohemian Rhapsody

  88. For some reason I went into this expecting this to be about the animated the Snowman…

  89. Well, I’d just like to remember everyone that Thelma Schoonmaker was one of the two credited editors. Let that sink in.

  90. Hey you said Hairy Hole haha

  91. Perhaps that whole ping ponging of the shots in that early scene could’ve worked if they were throwing arguments at each other I think. Like Harry has a point, the other guy does too. Then once, say Harry, loses ground in the argument, his shot now moves the same way as the previous shot, almost like the camera is mimicking him missing the ball in Ping Pong and losing the argument/metaphorical game. I feel like that would’ve been an extraordinary use of cinematography

  92. oh my god…saw this movie with my class in the cinema back then. it was so bad.

  93. Wait, this has nothing to do with the Raymond Briggs cartoon.

  94. A story about serial murderer with a quirky calling card that left out important plot points? Are you sure we aren't talking about Heavy Rain?

  95. I mean, to be fair to Mathias, if I was a serial killer and the police were this incompetent, I would probably also reveal myself at some point and just declare I'm the killer, because if they're not gonna play along, what's the point?

  96. I think the term utilitarian is a little misused at the beginning. I'd say pragmatic.

  97. I was so sad to see that this film has been such a trainwreck, I am a massive fan of the Harry Hole series.

    Great video, I learned so much!

  98. Something I just noticed:

    In the scene where they added the extra dialogue with the girl to explain she didn't make the snowman, they used the exact same footage of Harry twice. First time it was just slightly zoomed in.


  99. 6:56 was that a random ass 'im poppy' reference? It was the same cadence.

  100. This movie looks like it really badly wants to be any of the Girl With a Dragon Tat movies.

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