10

Everything Everywhere All At Once is a movie well worth watching multiple times for both its huge variety of crazy action, wild visuals and to better appreciate the emotional and character arcs it shows.

But it took me until the third viewing to appreciate that it was, perhaps, using some clever cinema techniques on top of its fast paced action and hyperkinetic visual effects. It has more than one aspect ratio.

I didn't notice this until near the end of the third viewing, so I have no idea of how many changes of ratio there are. Or whether they signify anything. But, given the vast number of other subtle visual gags and signifiers in the film, I'm sure there is something behind the aspect ratio changes.

So, how many aspect ratios are used and what do they signify?

0

2 Answers 2

7

IMDB lists these aspect ratios:

  • 1.33 : 1
  • 1.85 : 1
  • 2.00 : 1
  • 2.39 : 1

As for when and why they're used:

Aspect ratio Movie usage Reasoning
1.33:1 Flashback scenes (e.g. the life story shown in the elevator) I haven't found an official comment on this, but 4:3 used to be the standard aspect ratio for movies many decades ago. As such, it's pretty fitting for use in flashbacks.
1.85:1 Normal/drama scenes (e.g. doing taxes at home) According to Daniel Kwan, one of the directors, this framing is "usually what you'd use for a drama or a romcom or something like that". There's no letterboxing, which seems pertinent for the parts of the movie that take place in what feels most like actual reality.
2.00:1 Hot dog universe The cinematographer describes the reasoning in a Film School Rejects interview: "Then we have the hotdog hands, which started as an ode to Carol. We thought it’d be hysterical to try to make that universe feel like a Todd Haynes film. But as we were shooting it, we’re like, ‘This could never be a Todd Haynes film.’ So, we started swinging toward more romantic comedies. We framed it in like the 2:1 Netflix aspect ratio to give it a different feeling."
2.39:1 More cinematic scenes (e.g. the fanny pack fight) Daniel Kwan describes how these scenes were "actually shot with anamorphic lenses". The 2.39 aspect ratio is the widest format commonly used in cinemas. The added width "surrounds" the viewer more and thus draws them into the movie a bit more.
1
  • 1
    4:3 was also the standard for television screens until the late 1990's, so for those of us old enough to remember the old CRT TVs and computer monitors, it's definitely a little Retro. Jun 20, 2022 at 19:20
7

According to this:

The film adopts distinct aspect ratios for the various universes and time frames in the film, with 1.85:1 used for the scenes with the “normal world” and 2.39:1 for the core “epic” moments of the journey. Thus, each setting or world has a unique visual style.


There is also this observation in another article:

As worlds shift, so does the frame: a standard 1.85:1 aspect ratio for the world of reality; grainy Academy ratio for flashbacks; Shawscope-like anamorphic wide-screen for the kung fu-powered multiverse action.


The Daniels (Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan) explain in this interview with Filmmaker magazine:

Filmmaker: What led to your decision to mix aspect ratios?

Scheinert: Very early on we got excited by the idea that when the movie would switch genres, the characters would think that they are the stars. All these different Michelles are the stars of their different stories. We wanted to lean heavily into things like aspect ratio, specific lenses, color palettes, music, processes, to help the audience keep track of it all.

Kwan: It reminds me of what it feels like to be on YouTube or Instagram. You’re constantly switching formats, you’re constantly switching aspect ratios. Like a lot of the super cuts on YouTube. It’s tied into how people experience media online. Obviously we find a lot of inspiration from other movies, but we’re also looking for ways to break out the cycle of filmmakers referencing films. Switching aspect ratios feels like a more accurate version of how people watch things now.


In another interview they explain:

“Obviously,” he continues, “there’s the movie star universe. Michelle Yeoh is actually playing a modern-day Michelle Yeoh. That’s all designed around the work of Wong Kar-wai, a mix of his early work like Fallen Angels and In the Mood for Love. Then we have the hotdog hands, which started as an ode to Carol. We thought it’d be hysterical to try to make that universe feel like a Todd Haynes film. But as we were shooting it, we’re like, ‘This could never be a Todd Haynes film.’ So, we started swinging toward more romantic comedies. We framed it in like the 2:1 Netflix aspect ratio to give it a different feeling.”


Them being inspired by YouTube also surfaced in this interview:

DS: We started finding these montages on YouTube of people kissing in movies. The way it’s photographed, the aspect ratios, and the film stock just shift like crazy. And it’s filled with all these match cuts between movies from the last 100 years. They’re emotional and powerful, and you’re like, “Oh my god, yeah, kissing is cool!” It ended up being like very much an inspiration for some of the kind of mixed media, match cut, montage stuff we leaned into on this movie.

DK: Yeah, those cinema supercuts are sort of how we all look at media now. There are no rules, people are just like stealing shit from all over. Sometimes there’s still the water stamps on them; it doesn’t matter. You’re absorbing everything in this mush. And we felt like this movie needed to look and feel like that because it just felt accurate. Anyways, we could go on forever!


In yet another interview they explain:

DK: Every film teaches the audience how to watch itself, right? Genre is something everybody understands inherently, even if they don’t have the words for it. So we said, let’s go fully into each genre: the lenses we use, the color treatment, the aspect ratio, the types of music, the sound design, everything about it.

The aspect ratio changes always depended on what we wanted the audience to feel; if we wanted it to feel natural, we’d have the ratios grow and shrink and breathe more elegantly. If we want it to feel like you’re getting slapped in the face? We’d just hard cut between them like the literal frame was breaking. All of it was in pursuit of giving the audience a chaotic but guided rollercoaster ride.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .