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Murch: “Frequently, accidental things that Anthony [Minghella] discovered during filming suddenly emerge as talismanic and essential, even though at the time of shooting, they are tangential and unplanned.  The English Patient, for example, begins with [a B-camera POV shot] and it ends with another B-camera point-of-view…  I think if at the time of shooting Anthony had tapped the camera operator on the shoulder and said, ‘You’re shooting the beginning of the film’… they might have gotten a little flustered thinking they have to make it more significant.  But all of this gets revealed in the high-pressure cauldron of the editing room. Godard has a great phrase for it: the transformation of chance into destiny.”

Minghella: “This process has been remarkable on Cold Mountain, because we seem to have reduced the material by 50 percent…”

Murch: “More.”

Minghella: “More than 50 percent, without actually touching the vertebrae in any shape or form.”

–Walter Murch, interview from Minghella on Minghella by Timothy Bricknell


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“It’s liberating [to have extra footage], in a way, because you have this wonderfully demonic circle: every scene is holding a loaded gun to the head of every other scene, saying, ‘only one of us is going to get out of here alive.’  [You] think, ‘Do we really need that scene?’ Or, ‘What if we put it in some other location?’  When a film has [fewer shot scenes], the scenes are smug, in a way, because they all know they’re going to wind up in the finished film… the film-makers aren’t forced to re-examine everything – all our hidden assumptions.”

–Walter Murch, interview from Minghella on Minghella by Timothy Bricknell

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Interviewer: Sometimes what doesn’t work in terms of the translation from script to screen is exactly what you were talking about – an actor’s physiology itself can alter what a film is about.

Murch: Yes, that’s a good point… [in Apocalypse Now] the character of Willard is a re-actor. He doesn’t do anything in the film as written. He is the observer, and you watch the film through his eyes and sensibility. And it was clear to Francis after a month of shooting that [Harvey Keitel] was just not the right chemistry for that role. Marty Sheen has very big eyes, and Harvey Keitel has thin eyes, and so it’s easier its easier to use Marty’s face as the lens through which you see this war than Harvey’s… There’s a lovely aphorism by Bresson which says, “The little gleam of light caught in the actor’s eye gives meaning to his whole character.” [A] little chance spark of light in an actor’s eye tells you what the character is thinking, or makes you think you know what he’s thinking. And the chances are with an actor who has big eyes that you’ll get more of those reflections rather than somebody whose eyes are in deep shadow or whose eyes are thin. It’s a very true observation, but its one that is completely uncommented on.

via Walter Murch on Editing and His Translations of Curzio Malaparte | Filmmaker Magazine. (Emphasis mine.)

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“The Godfather for me is a very good example of good placement of music, because the music doesn’t tell you what to think as the scene is happening. Often, there is no music in those scenes, but music comes in at the end to help you to channel that emotion in the right direction… It’s as if the scene builds up an emotional charge, like an electrostatic charge where if you touch the slightest thing there’ll be a spark. The music comes in to bring that excess energy back to earth, to neutralize things in the right way so you can build up that energy for the next scene.


The other way is to have music during the scene. It’s undoubtedly effective, but the danger is that it’s effective in the way that using steroids is effective. It can definitely build up muscle, but it’s not good for you in the long run, and it’s cheating just by of the nature of bringing this artificial steroid into your body.”

Walter Murch, interviewed by Filmmaker Magazine