Blog Entry 2: Editing in Manos, Hands of Fate

A quick Google search about the exact purposes of editing brings up this sentence: “In most Hollywood films, editing helps determine at least four dimensions of film narrative: in what order you receive information about the plot, how much information you are supposed to receive about the narrative, how you are supposed to feel about events and characters at any given time, and how you are supposed to experience the pace of the narrative.” ( I think it might be fair to say that Manos: The Hands of Fate fails exceptionally at bringing all four of these dimensions to life.

It would be impossible to name all of the scenes in this film that contained at least one unnecessarily long shot, thereby having an unpleasant effect on not only how much information we gain about the narrative, but also the pace of the story. One that specifically comes to mind is the series of panning shots that take place when the small family is driving through the valley to get to their vacation destination. There is an entire minute-long sequence that shows us a foggy, bad quality picture of what their surroundings look like. Somehow, this simultaneously gives us way too much information, without giving any information at all. We have no clue what city or location they are in, or where exactly they are going; and yet we know far too well what the mountain range looks like. It also adds an entire minute of empty footage to the film that could have easily been cut out with little to no confusion. Perhaps if we saw more specific and location-defining buildings or landmarks, it would actually add to the story!

Another example of the awful editing is when Torgo is tying up Michael after knocking him out. Normally, a scene like this would involve a shorter sequence with multiple cuts and different angles of the action, but not in this case! We get one angle, and we get to painfully and uncomfortably watch Torgo drag Michael’s unconscious body through the dirt, to the nearest tree, and proceed to struggle to tie him up. Again, it is completely unnecessary to watch Torgo throughout this entire process, and it just slows the pace of the story. The audience is smart enough that if parts of the knot-tying were cut out, they would still understand what was happening. 

The last thing that I will discuss about the editing of this film is the music. Personally, I thought a lot of the tracks were very good, and I enjoyed listening to them! However, the way they were edited together was atrocious. 90% of the time, it was far too loud compared to the dialogue, making it often hard to hear what characters were saying to each other. The themes of the music also didn’t always match what was going on in the movie, with romantic music being played while Torgo sexually harasses Margaret in her room. And jaunty, jazzy piano music being played while a group of women fought each other. It’s hard to say what could have been done differently to make this better without simply saying: choose different music and edit it better next time.

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