Editing in 500 Days of Summer

Categories: All Summer in a Day

(500) Days of Summer is not a typical romantic film, as the main character Tom, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, states in the very beginning scene: “This is not a love story,” (Webb). The movie follows Tom through his relationship with Summer, played my Zooey Deschanel, and expresses how love is not always what one expects. Through the non-linear editing of the film, directed by Mark Webb and edited by Alan Edward Bell, the audience is able to comprehend how Tom has struggled with his relationship with Summer ending and how he deals with the ramifications of this relationship (“500 Days”).

Additionally, the rhythm of the film allows the viewer to feel Tom’s emotions at the same pace as he does. (500) Days of Summer is masterfully edited in a way that allows the audience to comprehend exactly how wrong Tom was about Summer and their relationship by using techniques such as split-screens, rhythm, transitions, jump cuts, and montages.

The film is edited in a non-linear fashion.

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This means the scenes are not shown in chronological order (Barsom). This editing style overall creates discontinuity in the film. The audience is exposed to snippets of Summer and Tom’s relationship through these discontinuous scenes and allows the audience to understand the relationship in a fashion that feels like a friend recalling a recent breakup. The movie actually begins will Tom being extremely upset, breaking plates off-screen, a diegetic sound, and then abruptly cuts to Summer telling Tom she wants to end things with him. This abrupt jump cut allows the viewers to feel the same shock that Tom does when Summer expresses her unhappiness in the relationship to him.

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In fact, she does not want to be in a relationship at all, as the audience comes to find out she expressed many times to Tom in the past, and he chose to blatantly ignore. She first communicated this to Tom when they are at the bar for a company party. As they speak, she states she does not believe in love, and all of the background bar noise seems to disappear in this moment. The audience is able to understand how Tom feels while she speaks, as if no one else is there but Summer. He focuses on her physically, rather than actually comprehending what she is saying.

Throughout the movie, there are flashbacks and flash-forwards. Each scene gives the audience a feel for how their relationship has progressed through the time that has passed and parallels the beginning and the ending of their relationship. The transitions between scenes act as ellipses and are very obvious, with a screen counting which day, of the 500 spent with Summer, the following scene will depict. Often, the color of the background of this transitional slide represents the tone that the scene will depict. For example, when Tom is extremely happy with how things are going with Summer, the background will be a bright yellow. On days when things are going poorly, as on day 303, the background will be a dark and dreary grey. These transitions allow the viewer to understand where in the relationship Summer and Tom are, both temporally and emotionally. Often, subsequent scenes have very contrasting tones. For example, after Tom spends the night at Summer’s place for the first time, he is ecstatic, jumping around, singing and feeling like a movie star. As he heads into the elevator for work, the doors close as he is smiling and dancing. When the elevator doors open once again, clearly something has changed. Tom looks disheveled and sad as Summer’s voice plays, “I hope this means you are ready to be friends,” and the screen fades out (Webb).

The rhythm of the movie changes with each scene. When Tom is beginning the fall in love with Summer, the rhythm is very slow and peaceful. In the scene when Tom tells his friend he thinks he is in love with summer, there is a montage Summer, slowly panning over each of the attributes Tom is describing. The lighting is bright, as the camera stops for a long moment on these attributes. This is in direct contrast with the rhythm of the scene when Tom tells his friend everything he hates about Summer after she has ended things with him. The rhythm is fast and choppy as he describes—ironically enough—the same attributes he mentioned before, now in a scrutinizing tone. Additionally, the rhythm allows the audience to comprehend the importance of the scene (Barsom). The rhythm is very slow when the narrator expresses the following scene depicts “the night everything changed.” On this night, Summer and Tom get into an argument. Following the fight, the film is edited with a split-screen so that the audience can see how both Tom and Summer reacted. This is an example of parallel editing in the film (Barsom).

The camera angle and editing style also elicit emotions from the audience, and allows the audience to feel how Tom does during the scene. When Summer invites Tom to a party at her place long after they have broken up, he has an expectation that they will end up back together. This scene is once again edited as a split-screen, one side describing Tom’s expectation of the party, and one side describing the reality of what actually happened. This scene is a pivotal moment in the film for Tom and the audience alike. At first, both screens depict a similar story, but as the party progresses, the story begins to diverge. This is an example of the Kuleshrov effect (Barsom). When he enters the party, the camera angle is a point-of-view shot. This allows the audience to see the party as Tom does. In his expectation, people say hello as he enters, signifying they know him, assuming that Summer still thinks of him as an important aspect of his life, and has spoken about him to her friends. In reality, nobody acknowledges him. This is the beginning of Tom feeling like an outsider at this party, in reality. In contrast, Tom’s expectation is that Tom and Summer will be the center of attention at this party. As the scene proceeds, disconnect between Summer and Tom continues to occur in reality. Tom expects to have a wonderful conversation with Summer, when in reality, he is left drinking alone.

The audience is able to feel Tom’s loneliness as Summer is happy, conversing with other men. The reality frame zooms in on Tom, further isolating him from Summer and the rest of the party’s guests, while in Tom’s expectation, Summer and him would have already been sharing intimate moments with each other. Then, reality really sets in for Tom, as the reality scene slides across the screen, pushing the expectation screen out of view. This transition signifies that Tom’s expectation is no longer a possibility, as a door physically shuts on the expectation side as it disappears of screen. At this moment, Both Tom and the audience realize at the same time that Summer is actually engaged to another man. The rhythm quickly picks up as there is a high-angle shot of Tom running down the stairs, out of the party. The camera spirals down the stairs following Tom, representing Tom’s emotions spiraling out of control. The audience is able to feel the distraught, frazzled state that Tom is in through the editing. Tom walks down the street, and a long shot is used to show Tom standing alone in the street and how Tom’s world is crashing down around him. The city turns into a sketch, and then erases—leaving Tom completely blank and alone. The heartbreak Tom feels in this scene is perfectly expressed to the audience through the editing. Additionally, this scene really captures Tom’s struggle with expectation and reality throughout the entire film. Although Summer was clear about her intentions in the beginning, Tom ignored all those signs.

Tom struggles for a long time after the party scene. The days repeat over and over again and he dreads getting up. Tom finally gets the courage to quit his job and begin pursuing his true passion of architecture, something Summer always pushed him to do. As a slow rhythm montage of all the so-thought good times he spent with Summer plays, Tom, as well as the audience, realizes the truth—she was never the girl Tom had built her up to be. The rhythm picks up and he erases her from his life, by literally erasing the drawings he had of her. He then uses that space to begin planning his future as an architect. A split screen shows how Summer is getting married while he is finally putting his life back together, once again using parallel editing.

As the movie comes to end, finally there is a resolution between Tom and Summer. Tom goes to the bench that they spent time at together, and she shows up, expecting to see him there. She expresses to Tom that she just knew it was right with her new husband, stating it was something “I was never sure of with you,” (Webb). She places her hand, clearly showing her ring, on top of his. This scene was also shown in the opening scene of the film when the audience was led to believe that Tom and Summer were the ones who got married. Now, the audience finally understands that this truly was not a love story for Tom and Summer.

The editing techniques used in this film clearly expresses the rollercoaster of emotions Tom felt. Through the use of split screen, the audience understands the disconnect between Tom’s perception of Summer and the reality that truly ensues. The rhythm perceptively represents how Tom feels throughout the film and his relationship with Summer by slowing down to emphasize important scenes or when Tom feels distraught and picking up the pace when Tom feels angry and upset. The editing of (500) Days of Summer eloquently expresses how reality never parallels one’s expectations.

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Editing in 500 Days of Summer. (2022, Jan 09). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/editing-in-500-days-of-summer-essay

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