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Lecture Library

The Cinematic Passage of Time
by Danny Baldwin

A collection of various formal styles and techniques that signal the passage of time on film.

The following film clips all showcase different ways filmmakers have stylistically and/or narratively inferred the passage of time, be they dissolves, musical montage, CGI effects, time-lapse, jump cuts, or a myriad of other formal strategies. The clips are intended to show a wide range of eras, styles, nations, and philosophies of filmmaking. Compiled for Stu Pollard's Production I (CTPR 507) filmmaking course at the University of Southern California.

2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick, 1968) — Match Cut by Stanley Kubrick (1968) The iconic match cut from Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey."
A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (Spielberg, 2001) — "Make Me a Real Boy" by Steven Spielberg (2001) Two-thousand years pass in a single sequence to begin the third act of Steven Spielberg's "A.I.: Artificial Intelligence."
Blue Spring (Toyoda, 2001) — Extended Rooftop Time-lapse by Toshiaki Toyoda (2001) Afternoon turns into evening turns into morning in Toshiaki Toyoda’s “Blue Spring,” with the protagonist front and center.
Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941) — The Breakfast Table by Orson Welles (1941) A marriage disintegrates over breakfast in the mighty "Citizen Kane."
City of God (Meirelles and Lund, 2002) — The Story of the Apartment by Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund (2002) In a break with conventional linearity, "City of God" presents "The Story of the Apartment" as exposition.
Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The (Fincher, 2008) — Aging Backwards by David Fincher (2008) Passing time manifests itself in a highly unique way in David Fincher's epic about a man aging backwards.
Enter the Void (Noé, 2009) - From Childhood to Today by Gaspar Noé (2009) A traumatic youth gives way to a traumatic adulthood amidst strobing and jump cuts in Gaspar Noé's "Enter the Void."
Gangs of New York (Scorsese, 2002) - Manhattan Built Up by Martin Scorsese (2002) Manhattan is built up before our very eyes as an ellipsis to the action in Martin Scorsese's "Gangs of New York."
Ghost and Mrs. Muir, The (Mankiewicz, 1947) — Aging with the Ocean Breeze by Joseph L. Mankiewicz (1947) Protagonist Lucy Muir ages in "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir."
Gilda (Vidor, 1946) — Send for Me When You Can't Stand It Anymore by Charles Vidor (1946) "Send for me when you can't stand it anymore." A request is met in "Gilda."
Lion King, The (Allers and Minkoff, 1994) — "Hakuna Matata" by Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff (1994) Protagonist Simba ages over the course of one song in "The Lion King."
Lucy (Besson, 2014) — Do the Timewarp by Luc Besson (2014) Lucy journeys through the spacetime continuum.
Marriage Italian Style (De Sica, 1964) — First Jump in Time by Vittorio De Sica (1964) The first of several jumps in time in a generations-spanning narrative.
Meet John Doe (Capra, 1941) — The Speech Circuit by Frank Capra (1941) John Doe travels the country to speak in Frank Capra's "Meet John Doe."
Memento (Nolan, 2000) — Who Am I by Christopher Nolan (2000) A sampling of the nonlinear structure of Christopher Nolan's "Memento."
Mission to Mars (De Palma, 2000) — Single-Celled Organisms Evolve into Animals by Brian De Palma (2000) Brian De Palma's "A Brief History of Time."
Noah (Aronofsky, 2014) — Creation by Darren Aronofsky (2014) Russell Crowe's Noah tells the Biblical story of Creation.
Notting Hill (Michell, 1999) — Seasons Change by Roger Michell (1999) A year passes as Hugh Grant walks through the market in "Notting Hill."
Parent Trap, The (1998) — 11 Years and 9 Months Later by Nancy Meyers (2008) Nancy Meyers' 1998 remake of "The Parent Trap" uses the opening credits as a visual prologue to the main narrative.
Requiem for a Dream (Aronofsky, 2000) — Drug Timelapse by Darren Aronofsky (2000) Drug use makes time move a little differently in Darren Aronofsky's "Requiem for a Dream."
Requiem for a Dream (Aronofsky, 2000) — Eating Breakfast by Darren Aronofsky (2000) A lonely, unsatisfying morning at the breakfast table is compressed into less than a minute of Darren Aronofsky's "Requiem for a Dream."
Saving Private Ryan (Spielberg, 1998) — Matt Damon Ages by Steven Spielberg (1998) Matt Damon ages in seconds before our eyes in "Saving Private Ryan."
Scarface (De Palma, 1983) — Push It To The Limit by Brian De Palma (1983) Tony Montana's rise to power is depicted via musical montage in Brian De Palma's "Scarface."
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Cameron, 1991) — Arnold the Protector by James Cameron (1991) Night turns into day in one seamless dissolve in James Cameron's "Terminator 2: Judgment Day."
Time Machine, The (Wells, 2002) — Using the Machine by Simon Wells (2002) An inventor unlocks the secret to time travel in this loose adaptation of the 1895 H.G. Wells novel.
Tree of Life, The (Malick, 2011) — Creation of the Universe by Terrence Malick (2011) Terrence Malick takes the viewer through the creation of the entire universe before jumping into the human drama of "The Tree of Life."
Tree of Life, The (Malick, 2011) — Youth in a Snapshot by Terrence Malick (2011) Poetic snapshots of a boy's youth in "The Tree of Life."
Twilight Saga: New Moon, The (P. Weitz, 2009) — Seasonal Depression by Paul Weitz (2009) Bella (Kristen Stewart) spends three months depressed over her separation with her beloved vampire boyfriend Edward (Robert Pattinson).
White Christmas (Curtiz, 1954) — On The Road by Michael Curtiz (1954) Relieved of their military service, Wallace (Bing Crosby) and Davis (Danny Kaye) hit the road in "White Christmas."
Wind Rises, The (Miyazaki, 2013) — Earthquake Aftermath by Hayao Miyazaki (2013) Tokyo rebuilds and protagonist Jiro Horikoshi ages after the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 in Hayao Miyazaki's "The Wind Rises."
Zardoz (Boorman, 1974) — This is the End by John Boorman (1974) The life and death of a family at the end of John Boorman's "Zardoz."
Zodiac (Fincher, 2007) — Transamerica Building Construction Timelapse by David Fincher (2007) The construction of San Francisco's Transamerica Pyramid building.