Typically, a movie includes several hundreds of plans, see thousands for some hollywood action films of recent. The plan sequence, very appreciated of the great filmmakers, goes a bit against the trend as it is in a scene filmed in a single take, without cuts.
Definition of the sequence
The plan is a piece of film between two splices. A sequence is a passage, a scene from a movie being in one and the same place and based on an action or a main dialog. A plan-sequence is a sequence composed of a single plan, which was returned as it was filmed without any editing, plan, cut, melted, or field-in contrast.
Concretely, to carry out a plan-sequence assumes that the camera shoots continuously during the filming of the entire sequence. In the case of a dialog, there will be no scope-in contrast to energize the sequence. The director will be able to choose a fixed plan, or rotate the camera around the characters involved in the dialogue in order to maintain a certain dynamic.
The plan-sequence is one of the more challenging techniques to master for a developer. Everything must be prepared in advance ; the movements of camera and actors but also technicians, in order to avoid that the boom sound, or a shadow not desired to appear on the screen. The smallest mistake requires to start the shooting of this sequence from the beginning.
The duration of a sequence is variable, but the constraints mentioned above are long shots-sequences of prowess film highly recognized by the fans.
The first interest that comes to mind for the plan-sequence is that it makes the scene more realistic as if it was composed of many plans. The impact on the viewer is often much higher when one uses the technique of sequence.
Plans sequences of the most highly valued are those that last for several minutes, following the characters or the action on a significant distance and is free of spatial constraints. The immersion is total in its sequences and it really does feel like the difficulty that may meet the character when moving.
The sequence plan also allows you to play on rhythm. Thus, we can create a special atmosphere. Accompanied by a soft music, slow-motion camera to create a mood light.
Finally, the sequence plan can be put in before the physical performance of an actor practicing it-even a waterfall or for a scene of dance.
After, often the spectators will look for a reason to a sequence plan, and if it does not find one will estimate that it is nothing. However, there is no need for utility to used a dramaturgical or set the scene for the use of a sequence plan. This can sometimes be totally free, that this does not pose problems. We must not seek a reason for every shot !
The origins of the sequence
As often when one tries to go back to the sources for a phenomenon, it is difficult to determine with accuracy the first uses of the plan-sequence. Some cite the Lumière brothers or even Murnau, but the first to really have used the technique of the sequence plan several times in one of his films called Alfred Hitchcock. The master of suspense, limited by the length of the coils of the time, made his film The Rope into eight sequence shots of ten minutes each.
Since then, many other filmmakers have used the plan-sequence in their films. The most famous are Brian De Palma, Martin Scorsese or Alfonso Cuaron.
In 2002, the Russian filmmaker Alexander Sokourov has achieved a real feat of engineering and of the narrative by turning The Ark Russian, a film composed of a single and unique sequence of 96 minutes. This feat has been possible thanks to the use of a camera’s high-definition equipped with a hard disk.
Today, thanks to digital editing, it is possible to make sequence plan. It is a plan having the appearance of sequence once in the room, but that is not shot in one take. It has thus become possible to cheat with the map sequence, which can produce sometimes plans even more impressive. The best example of this is going to be Birdman’s Alejandro G. Iñárritu, which is a false plan sequence from the beginning to the end.
Some examples of sequence shots
Old Boy by Park Chan Wook
Old Boy, a wonder of the Korean cinema award at Cannes, offers a sequence of incredible power. However, this sequence is relatively short compared to other plans sequences, but the position and movements of the camera create an atmosphere really particular. The technique of sequence has allowed Park Chan-Wook to create a unique sequence in the film, as it is not found in any other film.
Shining Stanley Kubrick
In the course of his career, Stanley Kubrick has regularly used the technique of the sequence plan. This scene from the hallway in the Shining is a marvel. We follow the young Danny through the corridors don’t inspire confidence in the hotel. The fluidity of the camera really puts us in the skin of the small, and when the rhythm changes, the concern, already present, will be found still stronger.
Broken Flowers de Jim Jarmusch
The sequence does not necessarily need to be coupled to the virtuosic movements to be effective. Here, Jim Jarmusch uses the map sequence to significantly slow the pace, to illustrate the loneliness of the character of Bill Murray. A scene very boring, or particularly funny and effective, this will depend on the appreciation of the viewer…
The sequence shots, it is sometimes very impressive, the fluidity of the camera and by his career. See it in 1964, it is even more. In Soy Cuba, directed by the great Mikhail Kalatozov, there are many sequence shots very virtuosos who are real technical prowess, but the most famous is this one. While the plan starts at the top of a hotel, it ends three minutes later in a swimming pool, several floors below.
The son of man
Alfonso Cuaron has long been one of the masters of the sequence shot and the one of the great moments that has it installed as such this is one of the car in The son of man. There is of course the very impressive 7 minutes at the end of the film, but the correctness of this plan in a place so closed will leave you breathless in the face of virtuosity. To do so, this is a camera and a device that had to be created !
The The Land
Many have had to see this film, and many had to be impressed from the start by the sequence to the choreography of Another Day of Sun at the beginning of the film. Well, it is a fake shot ! This can guess when you see some of the camera movements and sequence, but it does not remain about it less impressive.
A sequence plan, this is not necessarily a plan of several minutes. It may be a plan fairly short and simple. For example, one of Scorcèse in The Freedmen lasted only a minute, but is very efficient with the characters presented, which are aimed at the camera.
In this sequence, the camera, Quentin Tarantino is walking across the restaurant, following the hallways and overlooking the walls of the set. The whole is bound by the group’s music, and will stop when the phone ringing. Very fluid and natural, it is a very good plan sequence.
It is not only in the movies that you find plans sequence of quality ! One could for example think of the episode of season 3 of Mr Robot which is a false plan sequence from the beginning to the end, but we prefer the true to the season 1 of True Detective. Long six minutes, it gives a tension in this scene very impressive.