'Soft & Quiet' and other films featuring long takes

Newly streaming this week on Netflix is a bold one-shot thriller, “Soft & Quiet,” written and directed by first-time filmmaker Beth de Araújo. Released theatrically last fall, “Soft & Quiet” is daring in both form and content, as de Araújo utilizes the real-time conceit to tackle a real-world problem. Centering around a meeting of female white supremacists that devolves into violence, “Soft & Quiet” is anything but. Star Stefanie Estes anchors the film with a chilling multifaceted performance, and de Araújo’s script doesn’t pull any punches.

The film was shot over the course of four days, with the cast and crew executing the entire script in one take every time. Cinematographer and camera operator Greta Zozula built a custom camera rig to continuously shoot the action, and the resulting film is made up primarily of one shooting day with a few masked cuts. It’s a remarkable achievement, and well worth the watch, both for the artistic merits and the social commentary at hand.

One shot (or appearing to be one shot) films have become more and more common since digital cinematography has advanced. Famously, Alfred Hitchcock crafted the real-time mystery “Rope” in a series of long takes, as long as the film stock cameras and film projectors would allow, using as few cuts as possible and masking cuts to give the illusion of longer takes. Starring Jimmy Stewart, John Dall and Farley Granger, “Rope” is a classic example of Hitchcock imposing limitations that allowed him to creatively innovate. Rent it on all digital platforms.

The 2002 film “Russian Ark” directed by Alexander Sukorov was one of the first films of the 2000s to boast that it was shot all in one take, recorded entirely in one 96 minute shot, following an unnamed narrator wandering around the Winter Palace of the Russian State Hermitage Museum. Stream it on Kanopy or rent on Kino Now.

The incredible 2015 crime thriller “Victoria,” directed by Sebastian Schipper and starring Laia Costa, follows a young Spanish woman who gets caught up in the criminal underbelly of Berlin after leaving a club and harkens back to Tom Tykwer’s 1998 Berlin-set quasi real-time thriller “Run Lola Run.” “Victoria” was shot in one continuous take from 4:30 to 7 a.m. with a 12 page script. Stream it on Showtime or Kanopy or rent it elsewhere.

Alejandro González Iñárritu also used the one-take conceit for his Oscar-winning 2014 film “Birdman” starring Michael Keaton, which featured several masked cuts during its run time (stream it on HBO Max), and Sam Mendes also famously utilized the technique for his 2019 World War I film “1917,” following a young soldier traveling across treacherous no man’s land to deliver a message (rent it on all digital platforms).

Of course there are also real-time movies that don’t use the one-shot method, like Richard Linklater’s “Before Sunset,” the second in the trilogy (available to rent), Agnes Varda’s 1962 French New Wave feminist classic “Cleo From 5 to 7” (HBO Max, Criterion Channel, Kanopy), and “The Guilty,” a 2018 Danish thriller (HBO Max) that was remade by Antoine Fuqua with Jake Gyllenhaal starring as a 911 operator who helps to solve a crime over the phone (Netflix).

Walsh is the Tribune News Service film critic and co-host of the "Miami Nice" podcast.

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