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Tenet needed Hereditary's editor for 'the hardest movie any editor has ever had to cut'

By Jacob Oller

While much of the conversation around filmmaker Christopher Nolan's upcoming time-twisting film Tenet has been centered on relatively basic things like "When does this thing come out?" and "What is Tenet even about, Chris?" there are some practical issues that just haven't been touched on. Like, for instance, how one edits a movie where parts need to reverse themselves and time has a warped meaning. Enter Hereditary's BAFTA-nominated Jennifer Lame.

Leave it to the editor behind a ton of indie favorites (everything from Manchester by the Sea to recent Noah Baumbach films to Hereditary follow-up Midsommar) to be able to sort out the character moments within a film seemingly dominated by time "inversion." There's a big, all-star cast (including John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Michael Caine, Kenneth Branagh, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson) that'll need their small dramas made legible during the madness of the film's action. Speaking to ICG Magazine (h/t Indiewire), Nolan explained the process for picking Lame as his editor on the project.

“For me, hiring is about looking at the work people have done in the past, but not necessarily in relation to what you’re looking to do,” Nolan said. “I look for excellence and judgment. When meeting, it’s more about discovering if there’s a common creative language, which is exactly what turned out to be the case.” That common ground led to an offer...and quite a challenge, since this is bigger and crazier than anything Lame's cut before. In fact, Nolan thinks it's probably more difficult than anything any editor has cut before.

"I joked with her when she first came on that this might be the hardest movie any editor has ever had to cut — and I’m not sure she would dispute that right now," Nolan laughed. "Working out all the aspects of portraying time running in different directions meant going beyond what was down on the page, as the execution lay with a successful translation of the visual.”

That translation required Lame's own interior translation — seeing time-warping action as essential to storytelling as close conversations. “The films I have worked on up until this have been more character-driven, so I enjoyed getting more intimate scenes to cut,” said Lame. “I found myself spending more time on the quieter moments and perhaps slightly intimidated by the action. To get over that, I began to think of action as also driving the story forward, explaining, and fleshing out the character’s journey. When Chris saw I was intimidated by the action sequences, he reiterated this point; the story was always the driving force.”

Now just imagine if Midsommar was edited with sequences in reverse. Yeesh. Tenet looks to hit international theaters starting on Aug. 26, with U.S. markets getting the film on Sept. 3.