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History of Rules of the Game

Updated on February 6, 2014

The Rules of the Game, a 1939 film by Jean Renior is a farce film that tackles many stirring issues while being released during a critical time in history. Coming out while Hitler was rising to power is an important part of the history of this movie. It talks about the trials an complications of war, rules, power, and the lack there of as well. Some of the elements that give this film a contrast to the classical Hollywood style are the different uses of editing, the lack of a clear protagonist and antagonist, and the extremely close attention to mise-en-scene that is sometimes lacking in Hollywood films. For the sake of length, this paper will discuss how the editing in this film completely shatters the typical Hollywood paradigm.

In this film we see outrageously long takes. Anyone who is used to the classical Hollywood style would almost cringe at the uncomfortability of how long the takes are. For the most part, each shot lasts over a minute. Only in the animal killing scene does the director drastically change his style to convey a new point. These shots are accomplished by the careful use of camera movement to follow the action. These takes definitely make the viewer feel like they are in the moment more; however, when one is used to the style of 3-4 second shots with the use of continuity editing, this different technique definitely makes you feel a bit eerie. This editing technique is definitely one that changes this film form the classical Hollywood paradigm and gives it a different feeling that encapsulates the audience.

Following through on editing we see the use of not only focusing on one person or layer of a room, but focusing on more than one person or object in the room. Many times we see two people talking in the front of the frame while someone either approaches or is walking away in the background. This gives the viewer a sense of space and again makes you feel like you are in part of the room. You are keeping mind of the conversation but your attention is drawn to whatever is going on in the background. This is something that Jean Renoir does a lot in the film and it brings in a feeling of being in on the secret to the audience. It’s that feeling about knowing something that someone on the screen doesn’t know that can capture our attention, and Renoir uses this masterfully.

A third thing Renoir uses in Rules of the Game to confront the classical Hollywood paradigm is the absence of shot reverse shot in conversations. Hollywood style loves to use quick back-and-forth over the shoulder shots during a conversation to be able to see whose talking at all times. Jean Renoir keeps both people in the shot as they are talking to each other. This is an important element to the editing of this film as well because the viewer is challenged with the task of following the conversation rather than having the director do it for you. You have to pay attention to each person and it gives you the option to look at the other person and see their reaction to each thing said. It gives more power to the viewer and makes them feel more like they are in the film.

Regardless of what your preferences are as a viewer, you have to take into consideration the effects of the editing styles that Jean Renoir uses. His technique allow the viewer to become more involved and make their own decisions about what they see on film and who they want to root for. They also have to choose what people symbolize and how power and rules are used throughout. Jean Renoir made a classic movie that should be thought highly of even without the incorporation of Hollywood style.




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