City of Star-Crossed Lovers: ‘La La Land’s Fantasy Versus Reality

A split-screen montage of life and art.
By  · Published on May 23rd, 2017

A split-screen montage of life and art.

At the conclusion of La La Land, Damien Chazelle shows us a rich fantasy sequence that corrects the missed opportunities of the film. It’s a complete refusal of the film’s events until then, one that turns Los Angeles into a dream factory where Mia’s climb to creative success isn’t impeded or hindered, and neither is her relationship with Sebastian.

It’s a sequence that challenges the notion of success, because while in reality Mia has fulfilled her creative aspirations, she’s lost something along the way – Sebastian – and this sequence is her way of demurely lamenting what might have been if only this city of stars had aligned for the two of them not just professionally, but personally.

This discrepancy, between fantasy and reality, is the subject of the following comparative, split-screen supercut from Tobie, an editor and filmmaker who has taken scenes from Chazelle’s final sequence and paired them with their “real versions” from earlier in the film. It’s a comparison of vibrancy and dullness, kineticism and potential, and life and love, and there’s no question which version of events Mia would prefer, but life, ultimately, isn’t about one’s preferences, it’s about reconciling them with what you can actually achieve.

As you watch, note not just the narrative and thematic differences between the two realms, but also the technical aspects Chazelle employs to distinguish them: color filters, framing, pacing, and action versus inertia.


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