Seen as a showy gimmick by some and an impressive display of technical mastery by others, one-shot films are always a massive creative undertaking.
At once immersive and somehow also drawing attention to the very artifice of the filmmaking process, a one-er or one-shot film is a stylistic statement that can enhance or distract from any story a filmmaker is trying to tell.
There has been a modest crop of one-shot films released around the world in the decades since technological advancement allowed for such an endeavour, and many of these final products would not have had the same impact without their utter commitment to the form.
In this Movie List from The Film Magazine, we are selecting ten of the best examples of one-shot films (simulated or otherwise) in cinema history, listing each in chronological order. These are: 10 Must-See One-Shot Films.
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1. Rope (1948)
Two wealthy and highly educated flatmates brutally strangle a friend from school and hide his body in a chest just before hosting a dinner party for acquaintances and their former housemaster, both as an intellectual experiment and to see if they can get away with the perfect crime.
Alfred Hitchcock was limited in his ambition to make an unbroken filmed play (which he considered merely a stunt) by the length of a roll of film. Rope is actually made up of ten long takes disguised by the camera passing behind objects. Unspoiled takes were so precious that famously the scream of pain from a cameraman whose foot had just been broken had to be stifled to preserve that take’s sound recording.
The illusion of a semi-unbroken take helps to keep you in the same headspace as the perpetrators and their guests in the apartment, allowing you to voyeuristically observe as Brandon and Phillip try to keep their story straight as James Stewart’s Rupert closes in on the truth.
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2. Irréversible (2002)
A man seeks revenge for the brutal rape of his girlfriend, this film’s story telling of him achieving horrifically violent retribution to the harrowing sexual assault itself as well as the calm before the storm earlier the same night unfolding backwards before our eyes.
This is definitely on that unique list of unforgettable films you cannot wait to never, ever, watch again. It’s striking, but not necessarily for good reasons; forcing you to witness an extended scene of brutal sexual assault without ever cutting away is an almost cruel ordeal.
Not only is Gaspar Noé’s Irréversible presented as one unbroken (the editing is actually disguised) sequence, but the story is told in reverse like Christopher Nolan’s Memento, and consequently the chain of cause and effect is broken and the moral underpinning of seeking revenge is interrogated.