Friday, November 11, 2005

Remembrance or Mardi Gras?

I was in Germany a year ago today and I had a very odd experience. I was walking through Stralsund with my girlfriend’s family at 11am on the 11th November feeling very odd due to the significance of the time and date. In the UK this is Remembrance Day, the day when we remember the people who died during the First World War and the day when the armistice was signed. It is a very solemn day that makes you dwell on the futility, brutality, and loss of war. So, being in Germany on this day made me feel a bit strange and a bit uncertain whether I should enquire of my girlfriend’s family whether they knew of the day’s significance. However, as 11am came round the streets were suddenly filled with kids wearing streamers and party hats and blowing on party blowers and horns. As we walked towards the town hall we saw that there was some kind of party going on inside. We walked into the Town Hall and found loud German Techno booming from one of the ornate meeting rooms, a table set full of Sekt (German sparkling wine), and people handing out Berliners (donuts). A party was in full swing in Germany whilst at home people would be mourning the death of thousands of soldiers.

The party, I was later informed by my girlfriend was to celebrate the start of Fasching, the Mardi Gras or Carnival. For some reason, traditional preparation for Fasching begins on the 11th November and it is celebrated by storming the Town Hall. Fasching is a big deal in the Catholic south of Germany but the whole of Germany likes a good party so the idea seems to have spread north. The precise match of the beginning of Fasching with the signing of the WWI armistice was too startling a coincidence to be accidental. It must have been chosen to emphasise the importance of the occasion (11am 11th day, 11th month is very easy to remember) yet in Germany nobody remembered the significance of the day. Other than the fact that you get to drink wine and eat donuts at 11am. Another interesting example of how a shared history isn’t always the same history.


No, I’m not talking about my current problems writing my thesis. These are all names given to continuity errors. Now I thought it was about time that I addressed one of the common confusions about my thesis: I am not researching continuity errors. What are generally referred to as continuity errors are mistakes made during production that in some way highlight the artificiality of the film. Classic examples are cigarettes/drinks/food suddenly changing level across shots, actors changing posture or position within the scene, and the all-too-frequent instantaneous changes of costume. A great source of continuity errors is Jon Sandys’ website and the books that accompany it He has a massive directory of errors some of which are hilarious and others are so bafflingly complex that it is incredible that anybody noticed them. However, hardly any of them actually have anything to do with editing. Which brings me to a strange contradiction: continuity errors are not usually caused by violating a continuity editing rule. I discuss this in some detail in my thesis (I have just finished writing a taxonomy and explanation of the psychology of continuity errors) but in general my thesis is about editing so continuity errors are not important.

After my thesis I might expand on my taxonomy of errors and work out a webpage devoted to the topic but for now I’d direct you to Jon Sandys', the expert on this subject, and you can amaze at how slack Hollywood can sometimes be.

Quick Thesis Update:
Deadline = 9th January (notice the change)
Percentage written = 50% (still yikes!)