The Fabled Long Takes in Film Are Cool, But They Have Their Limitations

There’s a certain pornographic quality to long takes: directors setting up long periods of action while the cameras are rolling. They’re fantastic to watch, but Jack Nugent of Now You See It, argues in a new video essay that their use really constrains the stories directors are trying to tell.

He makes a really compelling case here. (Tony Zou of Every Frame A Painting makes a similar point). These scenes are really great at showcasing the technical and staging of films, but when it really comes down to it, it’s pretty similar to a stage play.


The result is something that robs the film of one of cinema’s biggest advantages, an cut, which allows directors to highlight what their actors are doing.

This isn’t to say that long takes are bad: it’s just worth noting that they have their drawbacks, and need to be used carefully.

[Now You See It]

Andrew Liptak is a writer and editor from Vermont who writes about science fiction and technology. Sign up for his newsletter here.



Long takes also can’t conceal dancers who can’t dance, and fighters who can’t fight.

Tony Zhou has something to say about that, as well, if indirectly.