Marriage Story | The Opening Sequence | Netflix


– [Narrator] It’s a common
saying amongst screenwriters that you have to grab the audience within the first 10 pages of a script, the opening sequence. That’s 10 minutes or less to form an emotional connection
with the main characters and set up what’s at stake in the story. – I’m not even sure how
my writing process works until I’m asked to describe it, but I think it works this way. – [Narrator] When crafting
the opening sequence for Marriage Story, director Noah Baumbach had to figure out how to get the audience quickly invested in the marriage of Charlie and Nicole. He accomplished this by using a simple but effective device. – [Charlie] What I love about Nicole. – [Nicole] What I love about Charlie. – [Narrator] Voice-over narration from the perspective of
both Charlie and Nicole, each explaining what they
love about each other. So today I want to explore
how Baumbach uses this device to make us care about the
characters and their relationship; to examine the way he establishes
an organic visual language to create a sense of intimacy; and to look at how this
culminates in a surprising reveal that pulls the rug out from under us, all in the first nine minutes. Let’s sit down with writer
and director Noah Baumbach and take a look at the opening
sequence of Marriage Story. – Hi, I’m Noah Baumbach, and this is the opening sequence. – [Charlie] What I love about Nicole. She’s always inexplicably
brewing a cup of tea that she doesn’t drink. – [Narrator] Before the audience can get to know the main characters, the writer has to get to know them. And this device of Charlie and Nicole sharing what they love about each other actually began as a writing
exercise for Noah Baumbach. – I wrote the sequences, the “What I love about Nicole” and “What I love about Charlie” almost as an exercise for myself ’cause I wanted to explore the kind of ordinary
moments of their marriage but in doing so, reveal kind of what
makes them extraordinary. I realized I had a device I could use for the movie at large. So it became an exercise that
at first I gave to myself and then I gave to the characters. – [Narrator] This technique
is an efficient way to express exposition, information the audience needs in order to understand the
story and the characters. As Charlie and Nicole describe what they love about each other, we the audience learn
that Nicole sacrificed a film career in LA to be with Charlie. – How could you? – [Charlie] After that
movie All Over The Girl, she could have stayed in
LA and been a movie star, but she gave that up to do theater with me in New York. – [Narrator] While Charlie
is thriving in New York as a theater director. – [Nicole] He moved to
New York from Indiana with no safety net, and now he’s more a New
Yorker than any New Yorker. – [Narrator] It’s important to understand these key differences
between the characters because they will be
critical sources of conflict as the film progresses. But knowing their back
stories isn’t enough. The audience needs to be
invested in the characters and their relationship. – Sorry. – Really it was about capturing in a kind of observational way these big and small moments. It was also a way to
introduce their world. – [Charlie] And it’s not easy for her to put away a sock or close
a cabinet or do a dish, but she tries for me. – [Noah] New York City, life with a child. They were just little things, but in the context of our lives, they’re giant. – [Narrator] We become
invested in their relationship through this montage of
intimate ordinary moments. But the writing is only
one of the tools used to create a feeling of intimacy in the opening minutes of Marriage Story. It also comes through in the
free-flowing cinematography. Noah Baumbach films are
usually shot in a formal style. – But Robbie Ryan, the DP and I, knew that we wanted to kind of bring some kind of different feeling and immediacy to these opening shots so we did all of that handheld. – [Narrator] By shooting the
opening sequence handheld, Baumbach makes us feel like we’re dropping on real, organic moments in these characters’ lives. – Scarlet and Adam and
Azhy, who plays Henry, they were all so natural with each other. There wasn’t a lot of artifice in that; they could actually just
play Monopoly and enjoy it or get angry for real. – This is so frustrating. – They could really find truth in all these sort
of stage activities that I gave them. – [Narrator] It’s not just
the way the camera moves, but the aspect ratio of the image itself that creates a more intimate framing, narrowing the typical widescreen ratio to focus in on the characters’ faces. Aspect ratio is simply
the width to height ratio of an image. This ratio can be
expressed with two numbers like 4:3 or 16:9, or with decimals like 1.66, 1.85, or 2.35. – I knew the movie was
gonna be about faces in some ways. We shot in a 1.66 aspect ratio, which is slightly narrower on the sides than sort of traditional 1.85 and certainly than widescreen, because I like the portraiture of it. – [Narrator] Together, the screenwriting, acting, and cinematography in the sequence give us an intimate portrait of a loving family. But just as we begin to feel invested in Nicole and Charlie’s marriage, Baumbach shatters our expectations with a sudden reveal. In the final moments of
the opening sequence, we see why Charlie and Nicole are sharing the things
they love about each other. – [Therapist] Who wants to start? – [Narrator] They’re in
mediation for divorce. – We pull the rug out from under you after seven minutes of this
kind of romantic suite. – I’m not gonna read this out loud. – Why is that? – Because I don’t like what I wrote. – [Narrator] The visual
language in this final beat isolates them from each other. The camera is no longer handheld. Instead it’s a lockdown in static shots, placing Charlie and
Nicole in separate frames, showing how far apart they’ve grown. – Visually, that was a way to create a distinction between this sort of previous life and that sort of transformative life that they’re having to go
through and rediscover. – Things can get quite contentious. For it to really work
you both have to read. – I’m not going to. – It also gives the audience a little bit of the jolt that prepares them, I think,
for what’s lying ahead. – [Narrator] Together, all
this sets up the conflict for the entire movie and asks the dramatic question: What will happen to the life Charlie and Nicole built together now that their marriage is coming apart? Through the clever use of Charlie and Nicole’s
subjective narration, and by ending with the sudden
reveal of their breakup, Baumbach’s opening sequence
perfectly sets the stage for the emotional journey of Marriage Story. (piano music)

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Comments

  1. This movie is like my life but i would of used porn stars and paid her hush money. Great movie don't be like me folks. Because i lie

  2. It's a special feeling of pride to see/hear one of my favorite Youtube channels doing content for a big company like Netflix.

  3. A truely great movie that really stood out with its directing and writing!
    Really hope the movie wins a few oscars, especially the actors…

  4. Netflix has really upped the game in the last year; for all the naysayers who said Netflix was killing cinema they are producing some of the best content from any film studio

  5. Omg I live Lessons from the Screenplay!!!! I recognized his voice at the very first second – so glad Netflix gave Michael this chance!!

  6. Shoutout Netflix for working w such a good YT channel to make a great video. Cool to see a channel that’s not mainstream get this kinda support

  7. That was good on Netflix right on time for the Oscars perhaps. Very dramatic of they were able to have a marriage.

  8. NONE of the cinematography choices affected me the way he intended. Baumbach's intentions, like his juicebox sitting on the floor idea, are so ineffective and easily unseen that they do nothing for the story. Even the scene in which they are closing the gate together is more awkward than effective at furthering the story in my opinion. Aspect ratio games do nothing but irritate me because they waste valuable storytelling real estate.

  9. Watching you & this channel grow from just analysis videos to straight up interviewing some of the best auteurs in the arts today has been a pleasure man. Congrats!

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