Out of Time: The Movie Freeze Frame
A gimmick sometimes, sure, but sometimes a poignant gesture of yearning.
Welcome to Flashback Fandor! Our staff of movie scientists have dug through our Library-of-Congress-sized archives to unearth our best (and still topical) videos and articles.
A film is twenty-four still images (or frames) run through a projector per second to provide the illusion of movement. We might not be able to stop time but we can stop a movie. Early on though, the novelty, indeed the essence of cinema, was the motion in “motion pictures”; freeze-framing was uncommon as filmmakers hesitated to break the illusion. Now, digital filming, home editing, and visual effects mean that literally anything can be rendered onscreen, by almost anyone. More basic techniques—slow motion, jump cuts, dissolves—scarcely raise an eyebrow. Yet of these old favorites, “freezing” the frame still exerts a personal, uniquely poignant fascination.