Sometimes you just have to sit back and be grateful that the world of the fanedit can bring such diverse delights. For every Superman or Star Wars edit, there’s a L.A. Confidential or a Killing of a Chinese Bookie. It should be no surprise therefore that the editor of the last film mentioned, is the person responsible for being brave enough to attempt a linear edit of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s fragmented masterpiece, 21 Grams.
To me, Iñárritu is one of the best directors working in cinema today. His much discussed “death trilogy” (Amores Peros, 21 Grams and Babel) arguably represents the finest example of non-linear storytelling and direction in cinematic history, even if by the time Babel comes to a close you could be forgiven for wondering if he’s capable of directing in any other fashion. One’s curiosity as to how a film such as 21 Grams would play if it were to unfold in a much more conventional linear style was, before the world of fanediting, exactly that – nothing but a curious thought. Now, thanks to Gatos, this has become a reality.
If I’m honest, I was a little worried about how well a rebalanced edit of 21 Grams would play out. After all, on the bonus features on the blu-ray of the film Iñárritu actually points out that life does feel very fragmented and more or less hints that the only way 21 Grams would work in its editing, would be in this very fashion. As I say, Gatos, you’re a braver man than me So, I settled down for another round of emotionally exhausting cinema with 21 Grams Rebalanced, praying that the edit would still hold the same powerful effect as Iñárritu’s cut, which I had watched and still hadn’t really recovered from, just one day earlier.
Had I been watching this with Gatos, my first reaction as the credits rolled would have been to turn to him and shake his hand. Some may say that re-balancing a non-linear film such as this is easy, but it’s more than just completely reordering the scenes of the film. Some small sequences still have to be cut completely (in fact, about 12 minutes is trimmed here in total) and more importantly for a film of this quality, cut with some degree of care and skill. I know that Gatos experienced some tough audio challenges with the edit, particularly in scenes where the gentle score from Gustavo Santaolalla would spread from a scene Gatos wanted to keep to another which he wanted to cut or reorder. Not an easy task at all and its to his credit that the cuts, both audio and visual are nearly perfect throughout the edit.
As for comparing this edit to the theatrical cut, well that’s a tricky one for this viewer. Having loved Iñárritu’s non-linear style, I have to say that this Rebalanced cut does not quite play out with as much emotional force. It’s difficult to say why exactly, but ultimately I believe that Iñárritu’s claim that life and death work in such fragmented ways, in both how they unfold and effect other people, is one which rings true for the style in which 21 Grams was originally edited together. I know that Gatos is a huge fan of the original film, so it’s not as if he’s trying to represent a version which will replace Iñárritu’s. Indeed, I still believe this is one of the most skillful fanedits you could wish to see and makes for a fascinating alternate take, while managing to maintain the spirit and tone of the original film.
I suppose the way in which the terrible accident which changes the course of three people’s lives is explored seems to hold more surprise and fascination in its fragmented form. It’s to Gatos’ credit therefore that he manages to stick with two bookends which actually belie his “Rebalanced” title a little. It’s as if he’s brought the weight back down to a much more conventional narrative, but still displays an acknowledgement for the more unsettling side of life and death with the edit’s opening and closing moments. A nice balance indeed.
Onto the technical side of things… Picture quality is a 10/10 for me. I watched the original version on blu-ray the day before, but Gatos’ DVD version was excellent none-the-less.
Audio wise, it would be a well deserved 10/10 as well. Some tough work involved, and there’s only one tiny scene were Santaolalla’s score comes in and then fades out very abruptly (not harshly though!), but it’s not distracting and as I say, it is a very small hardly noticeable glitch, hence my still perfect score.
Finally the editing itself is, as touched upon above, basically flawless. The scenes are reordered with skill and the pace of the movie still feels spot-on – the scenes which are cut are barely noticeable and therefore not missed. 10/10.
Summing up, I would actually give the edit a 9/10. I wanted to give a perfect 10, as this really is a beautifully crafted fanedit, but ultimately my feeling that the “rebalanced” style of the film did not quite maintain the danger and intriguing nature of Iñárritu’s original vision was too much to ignore. Nevertheless, this is a quite excellent fanedit which should be seen by anybody interested in the medium. It’s a difficult film to endure at times, but I urge you to enter the world of Alejandro González Iñárritu – it’s a fascinating glimpse into the beauty and pain of life and death which will always stay with you. Congratulations Gatos, on a quite excellent piece of fanediting.
The only thing I would add to LastSurvivor’s beautiful review is the fact that the small bit of lost intensity in this linear cut over the original is not necessarily a bad thing. I like intense dramas but I still really had to work up the nerve to watch Gatos’s edit just because the original left such a lasting impression of being emotionally overwhelming.
I think this linear cut not only offers an alternate perspective for the story but also offers one that feels slightly less like being emotionally tortured, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. The ending almost feels uplifting despite the death involved, and that is definitely not something I ever remember feeling with the original cut.
This is really what fanediting is all about. A must-see for all.
I saw the workprint of this back in October and finally got around to watching the final version. My original review holds still holds true:
“21 Grams Rebalanced” is as close to perfection I could imagine a fanedit of this type being. When I first read Gatos’ intention I thought to myself, “Man, how’s that going to look? That movie was chopped up to hell.”
But, Gatos himself said it best: “It was really like trying to put together a puzzle and figure out which scenes go where.”
Consider the original “21 Grams” a Rubik’s Cube with everything mixed up. To most, it looks a jumble of colors, but there’s a certain poetry to how it’s mixed up. The reds and the greens are placed evenly apart and the yellows never touch the blues.
“21 Grams Rebalanced” is the same cube, fully solved. The colors are all there and technically it’s the same cube, but it’s not the same beast. It’s even, smooth and looks beautiful.
A Great improvement over the original film! It added so muck more to the story, the characters. Now that everything has a actual flow to it, you get much more invested to the movie. Somehow Gatos managed to take a fragmented non-linear movie, and make a straightforward linear story that works and feels right. It could have easily been presented as the original cut of the movie and it still would have been a really good movie. At no point this edit feels amateurish or has anything that feels like it was fanedited. Top-notch editing with no audio or video problems at all. Audio goes smooth for the entire edit and the video quality is really good. For me now this is the definite version of 21 Grams! Gatos Good Job!!! You deserved fanedit of the month!