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  • Writer's pictureDorsa Sajedi

Character Dynamics Research: Lady Bird (dir. Greta Gerwig, 2017)

Observing character dynamics and how it aids the editing in Lady Bird

First Scene of Discussion

Second Scene of Discussion

In the first scene, Lady Bird and her mother progress from a neutral interaction after enjoying an audiobook together to Lady Bird throwing herself out of the car just to spite her mother. Being filmed in a car with limited space, the scene cuts between three different shots: a two-shot, and a close-up of each character (not including the POV shot of Lady Bird putting the tape away). While their dialogue is of course important to this scene, one must also consider the visual elements that the editing draws attention to. While the tension peaks between the characters as they argue, the edit decides not to cut to the two-shot (and instead remains with the close-ups), clearly demonstrating that the two refuse to get along with one another as they see things in a different way. Here, the editing illustrates how it can be used as a tool to portray character dynamics. If it were to cut to the two-shot, we would get a sense that the two characters are seeing eye-to-eye, which is not true as they are at the peak of an argument.

In the second scene, we focus more on the mother to understand her motivations and intentions, but in their interaction with one another, and how it is edited, audiences are able to get a sense of their character dynamic. The mother is upset that Lady Bird is going so far away for college, and so she cannot bring herself to say goodbye and leaves, but shortly after she turns back regretful of her decision. Lady Bird and her interactions with her mother prior to leaving for college are bitter, it shows that she is trying her best to say goodbye even though her efforts are not in that moment reciprocated. The editor has the job of selecting the shots with the best performance, and here they have done an excellent job. Even in the shot-reverse shot from the mother's perspective audiences are able to see her lack of eye contact with her daughter.The edit also lingers on Lady Bird for appropriate lengths of time to show her constant and confrontational eye contact in opposition to that of her mothers. This in relation to demonstrating the two's character dynamics is significant as it demonstrates how the mother cannot face her daughter in this moment.

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