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Film Technique: The Long Take

Film Technique: The Long Take


Based on the 1929 play by Patrick Hamilton, Alfred Hitchcock’s 1948 thriller has gained notoriety for two things, its homosexual subtext and its long takes. Hitchcock’s film, therefore, is cut into ten segments. Each section is up to ten minutes due to the length of a film camera magazine and the reels had to be changed in the cinema after every two segments. It’s described as one of Hitchcock’s most exciting experiments as well as one of film history’s most exciting experiments.


Picture Credit: Criterion
Picture Credit: Criterion

Paths of Glory

When you think of Stanley Kubrick and long takes you probably think of A Clockwork Orange but believe it or not Kubrick had honed the technique somewhere else. In 1957’s Paths of Glory, an anti-war film starring Kirk Douglas as General Dax. The long take follows the men and the General in the trenches. It’s shocking and goes on an uncomfortably long time. You get so acquainted with the scene you can almost smell the fear on the men.



Jean Luc Goddard’s dark comedy, Weekend follows Corrinne and Roland as they make a disastrous road trip. As they drive down the roads of France, they meet strange people and the Roads are blocked. Godard uses a tracking shot to follow a particularly long traffic jam to its horrible conclusion. From people sitting on the roves of their cars to fixing them to the nasty end where there are dead bodies and blood everywhere. It’s shocking how calm the characters are as they simply drive past.


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Picture Credit: Warner Bros
Picture Credit: Warner Bros


Martin Scorsese’s incredible crime movie about the rise and fall of criminal Henry Hill is regarded as one of the top films of all time. It also contains an incredible long take that took eight attempts to get right. Following Henry and Karen as they walk through a maze of a building into a bar. The intricacy of the shot and the steadiness of the camera makes the watcher feel as if they are walking close behind the characters. This shot has been recreated many times including in 2015’s Legend and fellow Oscar winner Birdman.



Park Chan-wook’s incredible action film follows Oh Dae-Su imprisoned by unknown captors then released 15 years later into a world of violence. The long take of Dae-Su taking on 25 men is incredible in both scope and violence. The way he moves along the corridor shows him on his way to get out. Much like in a videogame we see him run to the right of the screen beating those in his way to reach his goal of freedom. It’s an incredibly well-done scene and watchable time and time again.

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