‘Power of the Dog’, ‘Dune’ editors weave tension into their cuts


The power of the dogEditor Peter Sciberras was drawn to the psychological tension woven into Jane Campion’s screenplay. This tension highlighted the relationship between the Burbank brothers Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch) and George (Jesse Plemons), as well as their relationship with George’s wife, Rose (Kirsten Dunst), or the strained dynamic between Phil and Rose’s son, Peter (Kodi Smith-McPhee). Sciberras says he and Campion talked about how that tension was achieved through restraint. “We talked about sleek cuts without holding out for as long as possible,” he says.

A key moment is the banjo-piano exchange between Rose and Phil. Sciberras says it’s a great example of all departments coming together to bring it to life, of cinematographer Ari Wegner’s camera work – especially when Rose looks over her shoulder at the opening door – to the sound of the wind blowing through the doors and the closing doors. Sciberras says a lot of the sound came together in post.

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Since the scene was about getting inside Rose’s head and how Phil got under her skin, Sciberras had to keep the tension going and not let it go, and cutting became the most crucial. “Every time you cut something new, it builds. We cut to the door, back to her, she’s watching the stairs and knows something’s going on. I think the way we reveal Phil, it breaks that rhythm that we’ve created – there’s the boot in the door, the creak of them and a flash of him in the doorway, and the boots touch the ground,” says Sciberras. “We wanted to disrupt the rhythm in a rhythmic way.”

Sciberras says there was an hour of footage of Benedict’s character playing in the window and tapping his foot, “But in the end, we only used a few seconds of it.”

DunesEditor Joe Walker also played with balance and rhythm for the sci-fi epic marrying the film’s grandiose sound design with Hans Zimmer’s wall-to-wall score. But his favorite and hardest moment was the pain box, also known as Gom Jabbar.

Charlotte Rampling’s Reverend Mother asks Timothée Chalamet’s Paul to place his hand inside the box, which administers the pain. Walker had to cut between Chalamet, capturing expressions of pain, intercut with Rampling and Rebecca Ferguson outside the door. Walker says, “It took us a long time; we were still perfecting it until the last day.

Walker also had to cut the film for Imax, which he said was nearly impossible to do from the editing bay. That meant he had to check out how his cuts played out on the big screen.

“You also have to cut things slightly differently for Imax,” he says. “You have to make a little compromise because if you chop and change too quickly on a movie that will be seen on such a massive screen, it can strain people’s eyes. When your eyes travel 60 feet, it’s a muscular effort and you don’t want to overdo it.

He adds, “Some of these scenes, we approached them from the audience’s perspective and just sat back and enjoyed the grandeur.”

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