This semester, I made a short film for my documentary class, and it was a great deal harder than writing a 15-page paper. Deciding on a topic sucked. Outlining the information sucked. Getting footage absolutely sucked.
However, a part of the process I really enjoyed was the editing. I flailed around for a while before I got the hang of Adobe Premiere Pro, but once I could work the software I loved editing. I realized one of the things I appreciate most about film is gracefulness in post-production.
Una (2016, dir. Benedict Andrews) is a startling film, edited carefully and beautifully throughout. The score is sparse except when it isn't. The lighting is crisp except when it isn't. The dialogue is echoing... except when it isn't.
I saw Una two years ago at Landmark Sunshine Cinema in New York (may she rest in peace) without even watching a trailer. The synopsis sounded good enough, and I'm a sucker for Rooney Mara, so I bought a ticket and settled in upstairs.
A few days ago, I was telling my friend about the movie, which is a little difficult to put into words. Very much happens during its short 90-minute runtime—and nothing really happens at all. Instead of butchering a synopsis, I just showed my friend the trailer. Then, I realized the trailer is just as graceful and beautiful as the movie itself.
Watching that trailer for the first time, especially after having seen the movie, shook me. Later, I went back and rewatched the trailer. And again. And again. Multiple times, until I didn't completely shudder during the last ten seconds. Una never actually chants the name "Ray" like the end of this trailer; the trailer is simply edited that way.
The film is extremely dialogue-driven, and almost all of the it is between Mara and Mendelsohn. They dance around each other for the entire film. Since this is based on a play, dialogue is not only what drives the storyline, but the most important part of it. Una and Peter's story is told through exclusively through the words they speak to each other, any and all action coming second. This emphasis means that everything about that dialogue—word choice, inflection, timing—must be intentional and pristine.
Una's trailer is successful in that it gives away enough of the film to intrigue but not enough to spoil. To understand the plot, it isn't strictly necessary for viewers to know that Peter, the man Una is seeking, has changed his name. Yes, it highlights the severity of his past actions, but the trailer could have easily been tailored to focus on something different.
But names are important in Una, as evidenced by the title alone. After all, she owns the entire film. It is through Una's eyes alone that we see Mendelsohn's character, considering his stark duplicity with palpable ambivalence. He exists as both Ray and Peter, each of them (he wants Una to believe, at least) distinct people.
At the end of the trailer there is a convergence of these two people, fusing him into one being. Over flashing clips of present-day Una and present-day Peter, present-day Una and child Una say Ray's name in multiple iterations before the screen cuts to black and just the title "UNA" appears. This final montage links both Ray and Peter, but also Ray/Peter and Una. Her name is the last thing viewers see after hearing "Ray" repeated over and over. This serves as a reminder of Peter's real name—his only name as far as Una is concerned—and a suggestion that perhaps Una gets to have the last word between them.
To the audience, Una is more important than Ray, so we see her name last. To Una, Ray is more important, and she sees no distinction between him and Peter. She does not need to chant "Ray" out loud if she already chants it in her head. In the context of the film, it's safe to say she chants his name—his real name—in her head. Through impeccable editing, we just get a little glimpse of what that must sound like (feel like) inside. And that's enough.