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Bohemian Rhapsody editor discusses quick cut criticism

By | Published on Wednesday 20 March 2019

Freddie Mercury

Film editor John Ottman has responded to criticism of his work on Freddie Mercury biopic ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. In particular, he tells the Washington Post, that one scene that went viral makes him “want to put a bag over my head”.

Ottman and ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ won the Oscar for Best Editing last month, a move many criticised (although many also praised). There were numerous complaints about quickfire editing found in the film, although one scene in particular drew a lot of attention. It’s a scene featuring a conversation outside a pub between the band and manager John Reid and includes a dizzying number of fast-paced cuts around the various faces present.

“Whenever I see it, I want to put a bag over my head”, Ottman says. “Because that’s not my aesthetic”.

That scene, he explains, was one of several shot for the film close to the end of its production, after Dexter Fletcher had been brought in to replace fired director Bryan Singer.

Ottman says that he was then told to speed up several scenes to get through the first act more quickly. However, when test audiences actually seemed to prefer spending more time in the early part of the band’s career, he went back and slowed most of those scenes down again. Except for that one of the pub meeting, simply because he ran out of time.

Now, he insists, “if there’s ever an extended version of the film where I can put a couple scenes back, I will recut that scene!”

A part of the movie he feels more proud of, he says, is the ‘Live Aid’ performance, which concludes the film. Originally 25 minutes long, this had to have twelve minutes removed from it for the final cut.

“No matter how good the film was up to that point, if ‘Live Aid’ didn’t work, the entire film would collapse and be a downer”, he says. “It had to feel emotionally exhausting, in a good way. It couldn’t feel like it was being cut down. Because the moment you knew it was being cut down, it was no longer experiential”.

And there’s the problem I guess. Good editing goes unnoticed. Bad editing goes viral on Twitter.