How Wes Anderson’s Symmetry Extends to Editing

Perfectly balanced, as all things should be.
Moonrise Kingdom Wes Anderson Symmetry

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay that explores how (and why) director Wes Anderson uses symmetry in everything from cross-cutting to compositions.

We’re lucky to have filmmakers like Wes Anderson. You know, directors who take bold stylistic swings and kick the current plague of documentary realism to the curb. There’s never any doubt that you’re watching a Wes Anderson film. And while there’s certainly a time and a place for a jobber like Ron Howard or Joe Johnston (no shade boys!), it’s refreshing that we have a more expressionistic captain at the wheel every now and then.

And one of the most recognizable moves in Anderson’s toolbox is his love of compositional symmetry; frames where the subjects are visually balanced.

But if you’re a fan of Anderson’s work, you might have noticed that the director’s interest in mirror-like visuals extends beyond twee still frames. As the video essay below lays out, the director’s focus on symmetry is also a key part of how his films are edited. The video focuses on three techniques that Anderson uses to imbue the edits of his films with a sense of balance: (1) identical shot types; (2) blocking and staging, and (3) pacing and timing.

It can be tempting to dismiss bold aesthetic choices for style for style’s sake. And Anderson has certainly been accused of being needlessly twee. But dissecting the way he mobilizes symmetrical editing really underlines the method behind the mirroring. From implying deep connections to conjuring up unique moments of comedy and tension, Wes Anderson’s symmetrical editing is far more than an aesthetic choice. (Though we’d be lying if we said it wasn’t easy on the eyes).

Watch “Wes Anderson Symmetry & Editing Techniques”:

Who made this?

This video essay on Wes Anderson’s symmetrical editing was created by StudioBinder, a production management software creator that also happens to produce wildly informative video essays. They tend to focus on the mechanics of filmmaking itself, from staging to pitches and directorial techniques. You can check out their YouTube account here.

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    Meg Shields: Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).