An Ambitious Short Film in One Eight-Minute Take

in 21st Saguenay International Short Film Festival

by Jake Howell

In Drame de fin de soirée(Drama at the end of the night), filmmaker Patrice Laliberté stitches together an engrossing eight-minute long take that comprises the entirety of his short film, which casts an unblinking eye upon a hazy sequence of events in the snowy parking lot of a nightclub.Specifically, it follows 24-year- old Jeremiah, a young man caught up in a relationship drama that we’re never given the entirety of, as the audience is only present for an emotional outburst that requires Jeremiah to drive away from the suburban scene in frustration, calling someone that never picks up.

At Regard, the short film festival which was screening Laliberté’s work in the national competition, some of those who had seen the film were in debate about his choice to shoot it with one unbroken shot: is this, in fact, a gimmick? A flourish of camera wizardry? A desire to stand out amongst a stack of short film screeners?

Partly a matter of taste, it’s quite possibly a combination of all three. But there should be a thematic consideration, too: Laliberté’s decision to contain his short in one (sneakily edited) shot feels contextual. Indeed, moments of heightened emotions while drinking heavily often feel like they are happening too fast, with no time to catch your breath or reflect on what’s actually taking place. (Of course, there’s also the alcohol—blurring lines and raising tensions; not to mention the drug use referenced in the short.)

Regardless of where critics align or nitpick with the unedited long take as a cinematic ideal, however, it remains just one tool in a filmmaker’s toolbox, to be used at a particular time to achieve a desired effect. And perhaps best suited for that effect are dramatic events that deserve to unfold in real-time: scenes of intensity, like the unstable shouting matches seen in Drame de fin de soirée, seem highly appropriate for this aesthetic. Recall, also, the fourth episode of True Detective’s first season, where Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) enters the projects of a rough neighbourhood. Thanksto its single take tracking shot, the violent action it depicts comes across as truly dangerous.

As successful as that shot was—according to The Guardian, it’s heralded as one of “the most incredible TV moments” in years—it does raise the question of where to draw the line. For example, does German bank robbery feature Victoria from 2015 deserve an 138-minute long take? Watching that film—as engaging as it is—one finds that the single take approach feels unnaturally extended into the realm of gimmickry. In the case of Laliberté’s work, if Drame de fin de soirée was any longer, maybe it would feel cheapened, too—but given how quickly we enter and leave Jeremiah’s cold night of regret, eight minutes is not a very long time. It certainly does not require the need to rest our eyes, as it were, especially since the longer the take, the more blinking feels like cutting. By not overstaying its welcome, Drame de fin de soirée feels wonderfully slippery: you may not even realize it has yet to cut by the time the credits roll, letting Laliberté’s restrained direction and acute script overwhelm far more than the unshowy swiftness of his camera operator.