In cinema, time is a flexible dimension. Films often use tools to manipulate the temporality of their stories in ways consistent with cinematic language. This involves narrative compression, chronological advancement, and maintaining the pace of the work.
Films traditionally manipulate time using ellipses, a technique in which a time jump occurs between two scenes, skipping a significant period of time without detailing every action or event in that interval.
Furthermore, other techniques, such as flashbacks and time advances (flashforwards), are used to present events that do not take place in the present of the narrative.
However, there is a category of films that take the opposite approach: those that take place in real time. In these films the narrative takes place over a period of time equivalent to the duration of the film. This means that time in the film’s story proceeds similarly to time in real life.
Next, check out 5 movies set in real time.
Movies in real time
An action thriller whose story unfolds entirely in real time, the events of “Time Out” occur within its 90-minute running time. The work stars Johnny Depp, Christopher Walken, Charles S. Dutton and Courtney Chase.
In the plot, a public accountant (Depp) is forced to kill a politician at a pre-arranged time in exchange for the freedom of his kidnapped daughter.
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This independent film features four-frame split screen, showing interconnected stories that unfold simultaneously and in real time.
With a stellar cast that includes names like Salma Hayek, Stellan Skarsgård, Kyle MacLachlan, Holly Hunter, Julian Sands, Xander Berkeley, Leslie Mann and Mía Maestro, the film’s plot revolves around the intersection of stories involving the production of a film and casting tests.
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With a plot that unfolds in real time with the aim of creating constant tension, “By a Thread” has as its main setting a telephone booth, where almost the entire story takes place.
In the plot, an arrogant publicist (Colin Farrell) answers a phone booth call and discovers he is in the crosshairs of a sniper (voice of Kiefer Sutherland), who threatens to kill him if he hangs up. Katie Holmes, Radha Mitchell and Forest Whitaker make up the cast.
Set entirely in a motel room and shot in real time, “Bitter Reunion” is a film directed by Richard Linklater and starring Ethan Hawke, Robert Sean Leonard and Uma Thurman.
The film tells the story of three high school friends who meet again after several years in a motel room and relive memories of traumatic events from the past.
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This classic was directed by the master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock and is one of the most famous examples of films whose plot unfolds in real time. Furthermore, the work was filmed to appear as one continuous shot, although in reality several long takes were used to create this illusion.
In the plot, two men (John Dall and Farley Granger) strangle a classmate just to prove they can commit the “perfect crime.” Then they throw a party in their apartment and serve the food on top of the trunk where the body is hidden. One of the guests is a college professor (James Stewart) who, unknowingly, served as the inspiration for the duo’s show.
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Rose James is a Gossipify movie and series reviewer known for her in-depth analysis and unique perspective on the latest releases. With a background in film studies, she provides engaging and informative reviews, and keeps readers up to date with industry trends and emerging talents.