Here’s something I keep expecting to see but haven’t yet: an entire movie or TV show told as speedily as a trailer.
The people who put together trailers are brilliant at overlaying video and audio, cutting rapidly, and conveying the gist of narrative and atmosphere in a very short space of time. While the trailer for a movie never tells you the entire story (even if it sometimes seems like that) you know what’s going on. It would only take a few additions to actually tell the entire story of a movie, rather than just enough to whet your appetite.
We’ve become increasingly good at parsing very compressed video and making connections between seemingly disparate images, so I keep expecting to see movies and TV shows taking advantage of this. We’re now capable of making sense of a movie told at this pace in a way that those in 1895 alarmed by a film of a train wouldn’t be.
I’m not saying it would be for everyone, or even that it would be more than a one-off experiment — an equivalent perhaps to the four-way splitscreen Time Code — but I haven’t come across such a film. (Let me know if you have!)
Aside from trailers, those “Previously on…” summaries at the beginning of new TV show episodes are similar, trying to get across several hours of story in only a minute or two.
The best way to think about a story told at this pace is to watch a trailer for a movie you haven’t seen yet, ideally that you know nothing about, and imagine that you’re not watching pieced-together fragments of a longer, slower movie, but merely the first couple of minutes of a movie. What you’re about to see is the real-time, first two minutes of a film that will carry on at the same pace for 100 more.
Here are some of those first two minutes:
Friends With Benefits (includes swearing and Hollywood sex):
They vary quite a bit, and the end of that Cowboys & Aliens one is probably close to the peak of abstraction in terms of trailer storytelling — so many clips from scenes, allusions to events, unexplained characters, images that don’t immediately make sense.
Think how much story you could tell in a couple of hours if it was told at that kind of pace, with the audience working hard to piece together so many fragments relayed so quickly, with video and audio overlaid on each other, storylines merely hinted at, flashbacks and flashforwards… You’d need a lie down afterwards, but it would be amazing.