Features and Columns · Movies

The So-Bad-It’s-Good Editing of ‘I’m Thinking of Ending Things’

Rules are made to be broken.
Thinking of Ending Things
By  · Published on August 20th, 2021

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay on how ‘I’m Thinking of Ending Things’ brilliantly breaks the rules of editing.

Editing can be a really tricky technique. Often — at least in conventional narrative cinema — the goal of editing is to be invisible. A well-placed cut can stitch together shots in a seamless way. This conveys an idea or a connection to the audience without them realizing there’s been a disruption in the image. If editing calls attention to itself in an abrupt or unseemly way, it can completely derail the enjoyment of a movie.

But what about movies that intentionally break the rules? In between good and bad editing, there’s a line where an editor’s choices make a viewer uncomfortable without going so far as to make it obvious why they feel that way. And when it comes to filmmakers making their audience feel like something in a movie is just a little bit… off, there are few better than Charlie Kaufman.

The writer/director’s postmodern style is built on exactly that idea: an undefinable feeling of anxiety. In his latest feature, the Netflix Original I’m Thinking of Ending Things — a film ostensibly about a couple on a road trip but actually about so much more — there’s a palpable feeling that something is wrong long before there’s actually something to worry about.

A number of techniques contribute to this feeling, including the performances, the dialogue, and the cinematography. But perhaps the most invisible but integral aspect is the editing of I’m Thinking of Ending Things. Editor Robert Frazen expertly throws the film just slightly off-kilter. It’s not enough that viewers will consciously notice it, but enough that it absolutely shifts their perception.

The video essay below illustrates exactly how Frazen and Kaufman pulled off the just-bad-enough editing to convey a feeling of discomfort in I’m Thinking of Ending Things, long before anything goes awry narratively.

Watch “When Bad Editing is Good – I’m Thinking of Ending Things”:

Who Made This?

This video about the editing of I’m Thinking of Ending Things is by Thomas Flight, a critic, filmmaker, and video essayist. His work offers insight into the technique and artistry of everything from Oscar-winning films to art-house favorites. You can subscribe to his channel on YouTube here.

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Anna Swanson is a Senior Contributor who hails from Toronto. She can usually be found at the nearest rep screening of a Brian De Palma film.