The Biased Editing of ‘Big Little Lies’

Watch a video essay about how brilliant editing can transform our viewing experience.
Big Little Lies Finale Look Galore
By  · Published on April 19th, 2018

Watch a video essay about how brilliant editing can transform our viewing experience.

“Editing is unique to film,” Stanley Kubrick told Rolling Stone in 1987. “You can see something from different points of view almost simultaneously, and it creates a new experience.” Big Little Lies director Jean-Marc Vallée certainly agrees. Throughout the series, Vallée uses editing as a passageway into characters’ points of view, subjectively portraying objective realities. In his detailed and insightful video essay “Editing & Empathy in Big Little Lies,” Mzak explores how Vallée uses creative, subtle editing devices to share characters’ points of view.

It makes perfect sense that Vallée’s editing focuses so heavily on subjectivity. After all, Big Little Lies centers around gossip and peeping. In drawing us into characters’ perspectives, the editing also visually expounds these core themes.

Mzak unpacks some of the show’s most effective editing choices. A conspicuous lack of establishing shots, for example, removes any sense of objectivity in the series. Instead of being introduced to new locations or new scenes by an omniscient, objective wide shot, we’re constantly thrown into characters’ points of view; we see what they see how they see it.

Other techniques, like “thought cuts” that reveal character’s flashing thoughts and eyeline matches that allow characters to guide our perception, dig deeper into Big Little Lies’ exploration of subjectivity while creating a sense of unease. In adapting the series from the page to the screen, Vallée takes full advantage of the tools at his disposal — editing is, as Kubrick said, “unique to film” — to envelope us in the world of Big Little Lies.

Check out the revelatory video essay below to learn how Vallée brilliantly brings subjectivity to editing. Plus, you can get your BLL fix while you wait for season 2.

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Writer, college student, television connoisseur.