Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour (2023)
Director: Sam Wrench
Starring: Taylor Swift, Amanda Balen, Taylor Banks
Taylor Swift’s The Eras Tour has been a sensation, with fans clamoring for tickets. Of course, many missed out on the experience, but Swift and her team decided to release a film version. The film was made under union contract, and was shot over three nights at the performer’s Los Angeles tour stop. She partnered with AMC theaters to distribute the concert’s film release, and the film drew huge presale numbers, setting the record for October’s highest opening day gross and becoming the 2nd best opening weekend of any October release in history.
Those on the fence may wonder if it’s worth seeing. It is just a concert, after all, and it will come to streaming… but this is a theater-worthy experience. Taylor Swift put together a cinematic performance that qualifies for the Best Musical of 2023. The story? Taylor Swift.
The origin of the show lies in the pandemic. Taylor’s tour for “Lover” was canceled, and she recorded and released four more albums in the proceeding years. As she explains in the film, she wanted to tour all her eras at once, and the result is a three-hour, visually-stunning show in which Swift engages with her history and constructs her artistic image and narrative.
Each of the eras has a distinct tone that is evoked by the mise-en-scene and Taylor’s performance. The show is introduced with a “Lover” title card, and incorporates pinks, blues, and fluffy clouds that are reminiscent of the album’s cover. Her outfits are silver, gradually changed through jackets and other tops. The show moves to “Fearless”, and Taylor comes out in gold with an acoustic guitar, and she strikes poses and dances like the country star she was perceived to be (and was) in the mid-2000s. She’s playing with the band behind her like more traditional American country music performances. Her country twang comes back out a little bit. It’s more than playing music, it’s embodying a role and period in her life through theatrical elements.
Cinematically, the film places viewers into the fullest view of the show. If you went to the concert and couldn’t see the stage, you missed out on a vital element of the visual effects in “Delicate” as Taylor cracks the stage with emphatic steps. The tight shots allow for the full effect of Taylor’s expressive performance, and give an occasional music video quality through focused tracking shots. The crowd reaction shots incorporate the fans, and mirror reactions of theater-goers who cheered, chanted, and waved glow sticks during showings. The decision to cut certain songs for the theatrical experience makes sense as it keeps each era more even in length, and it’s possible the full show is released at some point. Most importantly, editing between the three nights is seamless, which is a testament to the clockwork this show runs on.
The lighting is what gives the show its kinetic quality, gifting it more of the feeling of performance art than concert. Red was a prominent lighting motif across eras – “Red”, of course, and “Reputation”, but it was most striking when the whole stadium turned red for “Bad Blood”. “My tears ricochet” features long shadows that can only be seen from above but are thoroughly unique to the segment. Blackouts lead to strong spotlight shots of a solo Swift, ready to tell the audience a story.
For “Folklore”, Swift establishes the story of the album: she was sitting around watching TV, and had fantasies about running around the woods in a Victorian dress, flourishing in nature. She started thinking about writing a teenage love triangle, so she created characters and wrote songs from their perspectives. She’s establishing her artistic process directly through her film, and cultivating her persona as a relatable figure to her fans. Swift functions as a narrator for a variety of melodic vignettes in a white dress, representing her role within the folklore of her own career. Any personal events from her own experiences become subtext for fans to read from the themes of a song’s performance and lyrical content. It’s symbolic of what she has done. taking control of her work from studios and her image, earning her place as a star in a range of media outlets.
Ultimately, The Eras Tour isn’t only a positive cinematic event for the money, but for the experience as a whole. It’s a way for her fans to come and express themselves in a public forum. While this is generally frowned upon in theaters, The Eras Tour is tailor-made for singing along and feeling the energy of the film. And isn’t crowd reaction the real benefit of watching movies in public? We go to hear the screams in horror films, the laughs in comedies, and to experience the emotional highs and lows of characters as a community.
The Eras Tour is among the must-see theater experiences of 2023. It’s the definitive edition of the concert from the biggest star in the world, and a serious showing on the silver screen. Go into the theater with a blank space, shake off any expectations, and this will show that Taylor Swift is, indeed, the man.