Oppenheimer Editor-in-Chief Jennifer Lame Talks Focusing on Humanity Amid All the History (Exclusive Interview)

“Oppenheimer” is a film with a remarkable pace. It’s packed with information, visual and aural, but it never feels overloaded. How did you help achieve this beat, working with and opposite Christopher Nolan and Ludwig G.öransson and the sound design team? What was your role in this?

Yeah, I think rhythm is one of those things. Obviously every movie has to be well-paced, so it’s so fun to talk about. But I guess the reason people want to keep talking about it with this movie is because of its length, right? Because it covers so much. I think for me the challenge of pacing this film was the length and the fact that it covered such different material. From a huge historical event to a weird little rivalry between two characters angry at each other, to the relationship he had with his wife and that he had with Florence Pugh’s character. So I just think in terms of pacing, the biggest thing was I never wanted it to feel packed into three hours.

Chris and I wanted you to feel like we were watching this whole life story get huge and then get tiny, and it had a lot of ups and downs and ebbs and flows. Fortunately, my favorite part of the film is the last third of the film. So for me, I just wanted people to – I selfishly wanted everyone to feel that way. For me, the bomb that explodes is the less interesting part of the film. For me, that’s what happens after a bomb goes off. So, I think in terms of pacing, I just wanted to make sure everyone was there until the very end. One of my favorite scenes in the movie is when you see what Einstein said at the pond, and I wanted everyone to still be very engaged, so that when he said, “You don’t know not what they were talking about.” and we cut to Einstein, where it’s like “Whoa!” But until then, everyone needs to get involved.

So I’m just thinking about doing this kind of roller coaster version of the movie and going up and down and letting people experience moments, and I keep talking about how I wanted the first 30 minutes of the movie to be very digestible and you could understand all the characters. I wanted people to not feel like they had to figure out all the deadlines. I wanted it to feel like 30 minutes of moving information, but also for you to have a window into who all these people were. And not obeying the rules or whatever.

But yes, I think that this question of rhythm, as an editor, is all my job. People keep asking me this and I totally understand why. And I also go back to the first reading of the script, I had such an exciting experience. I had to read it at Chris’s house, I had to go talk to him right after, and you walk into this room and it’s very sterile, and I just opened the page and then five minutes went by and I I had read the whole movie and it was incredible. So I think my goal was to make sure that everyone felt that way when they saw the film. You just filter it and filter it and say, “Oh, this section falls flat” or “This section, I feel like it doesn’t have the same feeling as when I read this.” I kept coming back to that initial emotional reaction when I was first able to experience the film for me, which was reading the script and wanting that to translate for everyone.

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