I love to watch movies because I love to be entertained. Movies provide an escape from reality by entering into another world. A world comprised of characters, some you like and some you do not, and a story, which if effective will grip you and take you in. Sometimes so much to the extent, the world around you disappears and you become mesmerized and captivated by the images and the scenes that unfold on the screen. Film is an art form, a representation or even a manipulation of reality.
I selected Amores Perros for the purposes of this essay. I popped the cassette into the VCR without looking at the actual playing time of the movie. I wanted to see how the film makers used their ability to manipulate time to affect me and my experience.
Following the guidelines, I will start by producing a quick summary of the film. The film revolves around three different stories all intertwined through one devastating automobile accident experienced from three alternate perspectives and times throughout the film. The film is a patchwork narrative meaning, “there is no central plot and no single-line character. Instead, one story begets another and the primary conceit is part-for-whole (synecdoche).” The film opens up with a chase scene leading into the accident involving the main character of the first section of the movie, Octavio. Octavio lives in a poor household with his brother and his wife, Suzanna, their baby, and their mother. Octavio’s struggle begins when he falls in love with Suzanna. He finds a means of making money through subjecting his dog into fighting and seeks to earn enough to take his husband’s wife and the baby away with him. After Suzanna abandons Octavio with his brother and the money, the dog fighting ends up in a messy disaster corrupted with foul play. Octavio finds himself in a violent car chase involving thugs of the dog fighting world. This leads up to the crash. The second section of the film involves a man named Daniel who leaves his family to pursue a life with his mistress, Valeria, a supermodel. He purchases an apartment for them to live together but their lives are quickly thrown in disarray when the model is hit by a speeding car racing through a red light, Octavio’s. Valeria is left in a wheelchair with her leg highly disfigured. Turmoil begins in their relationship when her dog disappears through the floorboards, and frustration of not being able to walk nor rely on her beauty kicks in. After a medical oversight the model’s leg is amputated and Daniel begins to wonder how his life unfolded in such disillusion. This leads us into the third part of the movie involving an ex-con man, El Chivo, in search of the strength to talk to his daughter whom he abandoned when she was two. El Chivo lives in a shanty home with several dogs as his family. Desperately seeking money, El Chivo acts as a hired hit-man. About to kill, he observes the brutal car crash between Octavio and Valeria. Racing to the scene he finds Octavio’s dog and rescues and nurtures it back to health. He leaves do go commit a murder only to return home to find Octavio’s dog covered in blood after mauling and killing every one of El Chivo’s dogs. This sparks some changes in El Chivo’s life, including a call to his daughter. As the three stories unfold they overlap and intertwine on many occasions within the film.
Attached to the essay, is a graph of the dramatic structure of the film. It is separated into three divisions based on the three alternate story lines. Each line marked with the letter C represents the car crash on the three different occasions during the film. The movie as well as each story begins by witnessing the accident from a different perspective thus correlating with high viewer interest. The stories through sequences which flash back in time and disregarding a linear time structure capture events which raise the intensity of the film over elapsed time, until once again the crash is experienced. The lines marked S are the story’s time line of major events which build up intensity until the climactic crash scene. However the storylines are interrupted with quick scenes from the other storylines not to build intensity but to familiarize the audience with the characters whom are going to appear. Often a black screen appears for this transition to occur. In doing this the linear timeline is compromised completely, however the elapsed time continues while the viewer’s interest increases, pauses as the movie takes on a new story and then increases again while the movie returns to the rising excitement of the story being focused on. In the third and final story the movie comes to a closure just as each of the first two stories had previously done. However the sequences of the alternate storylines are higher in viewer interest than the alternate sequences in the main storylines for the first part of the film, because as time has progressed all three story are concluding.
As I mentioned earlier, because our focus is on time in the cinema, I decided to put on Amores Perros without looking at the playing time. While I was watching the movie from an objective standpoint I noticed that I had no idea what time it was or how long the movie was going on. The physical projection time of the movie was 153 minutes, but the psychological time for the characters and me as the viewer far exceeded that. As for the psychological time of the characters, it was hard to construct the dramatic timeline in which the story unfolds in. Throughout the story each character goes through life altering events in a short span of time which affects their psychological time. The struggles the characters go through as for anyone who would go through such events, destroy their concepts of time as their worlds crumble and their lives take on new ordeals. Their patterns of daily life disintegrate and these new challenges consume the lives of these characters. As everything is thrown into disarray their past become faint memories of a different life. For these characters the grind of their present everyday environments is all that matters.
As a viewer the experience of time is much different than that of the characters. The extent to which the life changing events have on the characters, draws out the psychological experience for the viewer miraculously. For the viewer, everything that takes place is so significant that the time seems to span far longer than the actual duration in which the film is running. Adding to this effect is the formula of the “forking paths” and the multiple storylines. The viewer is forced to go back in time after the completion of one character’s story to play out the events from an alternate character in the time that has already passed in the film. This technique, manipulates the viewer to disregard real time and consume themselves with the events on the screen. As each storyline intersects with one another the time seems to be moving in endless cycles.
Two principle methods of temporal manipulation employed in the film are condensed and suspended time. The most common formula for films is the simple story formula, which involves a hero and his or her plight through an array of obstacles. “This formula may sound basic, but huge numbers of excellent movies have used it.” It also explains why condensed time was essential in the creation of this movie. By no means has Alexandro Gonzalez Inarritu directed a simple film formula. However in each separate story he focuses on individuals who experience an array of life changing events and pass through many obstacles along the way. Each of these stories exists on their own but are connected through one fated car accident, allowing the director to fit three stories into one film. In doing this, he must also ensure that the audience will have an emotional connection to each of the main characters in the film. In addition for the film to be successful each story must be able to exist as its own entity. To do so, he has condensed time between scenes filled with constant energy and constant infliction on the characters. He does this using several techniques. The most simplistic method used by the director to condense time is, cutting out sequences that must exist for the scene to unfold. An example can be seen at the beginning of the chase scene where Octavio is running from the thugs. It shows the altercation which leads up to the chase, with Octavio getting a head start on his pursuers by foot as he approaches his car. The next shot then jumps into the car as the chase has begun. The action as well as the time that passes in between has been condensed. Another technique the director uses to condense time is the three alternate storylines. Although the movie is separated into three distinct parts and stories, the characters are intertwined throughout the whole film. By showing snippets of the characters throughout the entire film, he allows for condensed time by reverting back to intense scenes in the main story, while time has progressed in between. He does this exceptionally as the film is riddled with excitement throughout each of the three stories. As a divergent film, Amores Perros uses “more than one story line and/or sets of characters that may intersect.” With the multi-layered film the director is able to create suspended time. While the other story lines are previewed, the main storyline jumps through scenes or time is suspended by viewing from where it was left off. Inarritu uses different techniques to alter the linear progression of time within this movie. Time is suspended while the different characters exist and live through the same time sequence. As the characters do not interact with one another the same time sequence is shown on several different occasions for the viewer. Time progresses for the audience yet the director manipulates the time on the screen by jumping backwards and forwards on a linear time sequences through the different characters and the events that surround them. On numerous occasions time in the film is suspended while this is occurring.
In this film I think it is clearly evident that the soundtrack affects the temporal manipulation of the audience, as well as externalizing the characters’ feelings. Looking into two distinct scenes in the film, the love making scene, and the car chase provide succinct evidence of this. During the scene where Octavio is making love to Suzanna the music is soft and passionate. For the viewer the music aids the perception of time to slow it down. The music differentiates the pace and tempo of this scene from the rest of the film. The love making is drawn out and seems to lapse for longer than many of the other scenes. This correlates with both Octavio’s and Suzanna’s emotional experience during the scene. The car chase is accompanied by intense and fast music, working similar to the love scene only on the opposite end of the spectrum. Where this scene is meant to be intense and exciting the music gets harder and more exhilarating and the experience for the viewer changes. The music builds up as the scene and excitement build up as Ocativo’s life dangles in the mix. The scene elicits the response of being much faster than the love scene as the ordeal seems much quicker than that of the love scene.
The film provides insight to the nature of time with its multiple strand formula. The three different storylines provide the viewer with the insight of the enormity of time itself. The experience allows the viewer to see the impact of time on an array of characters and events and the after effects which follow. It is through the progression of time that both chaos and order take form. This is exemplified as the characters have no prior contact with one and other before the fated car accident and no further contact following. It is through coincidental timing that the lives of all the characters are greatly affected. The impact of the nature of time is exhibited through each separate storyline.