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Seated at the head of the table, Dr. Teddy is having dinner with Dr. Randall’s family. While Dr. Teddy is speaking, he is shown eating, so his voice continues in the background while his image on the screen freezes for a few seconds:

Dr Teddy: If I'm to be completely honest, which at this moment, why not? I actually like the junky taste of store-bought better than homemade.

enter image description here
2:04:30

Dr Randall: You gotta be kidding me.

What is the purpose of the screen freeze here?

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  • There's another freeze a few seconds later, when we see this businessman running; i.sstatic.net/PniuZ.png
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 16, 2023 at 8:31
  • And again a few second later when he's holding his wife's hand and she squeezes it; i.sstatic.net/cIWyh.jpg
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 16, 2023 at 8:33

1 Answer 1

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A screen freeze is an editorial choice made for a variety of reasons, a technique used to emphasize a point or a moment, to make it emotional, or funny. It can also be used to put the focus of the audience on the narration for a moment. We can't really say why the director made this choice. Or even if he did! Maybe, like for the crew shot, it's either a bad choice or intended to cover a blunder. For the latter, he says it's intentional though, but doesn't mention the screen freeze scenes:

Meanwhile, director Adam McKay hit Twitter to claim the shot of the crew was intentional, saying, “Good eye! We left that blip of the crew in on purpose to commemorate the strange filming experience. #DontLookUp” Here's the Deal With That Editing Error in "Don't Look Up"

Don't Look Up Film Crew Mistake Was Intentional Says Director Adam McKay

On a thread on reddit, some people think the use of screen freeze is a weird choice or a mistake, but one person gives a possible explanation:

I pretty sure this was to illustrate the emotional distraction each character was experiencing. They were trying to have a normal dinner with common conversation but there is pending doom. Their attention and emotions were compromised so the editing attempted to show that. MergenTheAler

Film Inquiry thinks it's a very good and subtle choice:

And then, just for a second, the film freezes. And we hold on him. It’s subtle, but it’s still a movie. The human eye can tell when a moving image suddenly stops moving. He’s in the middle of eating pie, and we see Teddy centered in the frame, at the head of the table, taking comfort in some time with his found family.

And then two minutes later, he and everyone in that room are dead.

Corwin’s editing here annoyed me, as it did in the rest of the film. Don’t Look Up is rife with quick cuts, noticeably out-of-sync dialogue, and seemingly random sporadic freeze-frames. But with this shot of Teddy eating his pie, when the freeze-frame is so apparent, it struck me that there was an expressionistic choice at play here.

The logic behind the freeze-frames changes throughout the film, but freezing on Teddy eating pie and then cutting to Mindy looking up at him shows the character almost trying to retain the memory of Teddy at that moment — that’s the characters’ lasting impression of this man, who gave everything and ultimately lost everything bargaining for the hope that the people in charge give enough of a damn about us to save us. It’s an image not of power, respect, or tragedy for this government official, but one of honor and warmth — an institutional man brought down to the living room, eating pie and smiling with friends at the doorstep of Armageddon.


Freeze framing is also an imperative facet of theater history. Sometimes referred to as a plateau, freeze frames occurred when actors on stage would hold their position on stage to emphasize an important part of the scene or plot. What is a Freeze Frame

It can also be a tricky situation, close to become a blunder if misused:

To extend the shot's duration to “fix” an editing mistake. This one is a little difficult to pull off, but you can freeze a frame and increase the duration of the frame by a few frames up to a few seconds to help you reach a specific sequence time. For example, if you need to deliver a two-minute video, but you only have 1 min 58 secs, you can take one of the clips and freeze frame a clip, extending the time of that clip for an extra two seconds. Be careful editing with this technique, though. If the frozen frame will be obvious to your audience, combine it with another technique to make it look intentional. The freeze frame: Why filmmakers stop time.

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  • There are multiple freeze frames in this sequence, so it's either intentional or incompetence
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 16, 2023 at 12:32
  • "it's either intentional or incompetence": so far, no evidence. I haven't found a single clue/interview from the director or some staff member that would help clarify.
    – OldPadawan
    Commented Dec 16, 2023 at 14:26
  • Oh sure, but the presence of multiple freezes would suggest that it's not simply an error with the Netflix broadcast, for example
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 16, 2023 at 14:56
  • I don't think it's Netflix related, rather a director's choice or a mistake, but merely an opinion though
    – OldPadawan
    Commented Dec 16, 2023 at 20:09

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