French New Wave in Modern Cinema

Motives of filmmakers of the French New Wave were simple – to show that young people were capable of making films, that directors had full ownership of films, and that you did not need a lot of money to make a film successful.


The contemporary film I will be analysing is the 2005 psychological thriller, ‘Stay’, directed by Marc Forster. There are many aspects of this film that can be attributed to the influence of French New Wave cinema, including a discontinuous editing style, natural, uncorrected lighting, breaking the 4th wall, having a non-linear timeline, and the use of on-location shots.


Director Marc Forster has been heavily influenced by the French New Wave, as he indeed focuses more on mise en scene, and this can be observed by how every little detail, down to the length of the character’s pants, and the disparities in editing contribute to story telling.


These are some of the examples of continuity problems in the film.


Example 1.1: Breaking the 180-degree rule.

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One of the more glaring uses of jump cuts in the film is the breaking of the 180-degree rule on several occasions while two characters are conversing. This happens twice in the same scene, where Henry in consulting Sam at his office.


Another example is the morphing of locations with characters still in the scene appearing in another. This occurs several times, with the train station morphing into the house, and Henry morphing into Sam.


Example 1.2: Location Morphing

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These lapses in continuity were supposedly to contribute to the plot by letting the audience know that everything happening was not part of reality.


Another common trait the film shared with French New Wave is the use of natural sound and lighting. There was no use of artificial lighting or much correction for under exposed or over exposed shots in the film. Here, you can see the disparity between the lighting in Sam’s office, above and below, as well as the outdoor lighting.


Example 2.1: Inconsistent lighting.

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The above images also show that scenes are all shot on-location, also a prominent feature of French New Wave.


The third example of a technique used in French New Wave that influenced this film include the use of strange camera angles, and having a character face the camera directly to say her line, although up till this point, I’m not sure what purpose that scene served. The film literally starts with strange camera angles, when showing the scene of the car crash.


Example 3.1: Strange Camera Angles

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Example 3.2: Breaking 4th wall


An additional point of this film that has been influenced by the French New Wave, which although is common in modern films, is it’s non-linear timeline – which I feel the need to mention, as it is the crux of the show. The film ran on two timelines simultaneously, including one that quite possibly may or may not exist, according to Forster.


Example 4.1: Non-linear timeline

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In conclusion, French New Wave has brought about a huge shift in the direction of films by introducing many new techniques that no one had ever thought of before, and this has largely affected modern films like Stay, by changing the dynamics of the film with elements like having a non-linear timeline, and acknowledging directors for their creative work.

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