In Limitless [Neil Burger, 2011], there’s a technique which I believe is used three times. It’s like a montage, showing all the things Bradley Cooper’s character can accomplish in his pharmaceutically enhanced state. But a montage is normally a quick way of condensing time and space, melding together representative moments spanning a certain period of time. It includes moments from different locations and different steps in the fighter’s training regimen (or whatever else a montage can be used for, if in theory it were used for something other than a fighter’s training regimen). Nowadays we think of a montage as being a quick-cut together one after another, though earlier in cinema history it was normal to fade from one short shot to another, or use split-screen to condense information even more compactly.

Limitless‘s technique recalls the time when a montage could incorporate one shot overlaid on another. It doesn’t aim to represent a huge amount of time, just a couple of hours in a few seconds. What happens is, when Bradley Cooper’s character Eddie is “in the zone” and operating at maximum mental capacity, we see multiple Eddies at once, each being productive [or charming] in his own way. Either a single room has one Eddie superimposed on another, one taking out the trash while the other moves furniture, or the camera pans across a large scene as we see him first in one place, then in another, then in another. No obvious cuts.

Instead of emphasizing how much time is passing while the story advances, this type of montage emphasizes how little time this character needs in order to advance his story. The crucial element is that in what seems to be a single continuous shot, we repeatedly see more than one copy of a certain character [I suppose it could be more than one character] simultaneously. I propose a new word to describe this technique, in recognition of the modern trickery needed to pull this off seamlessly [Sure, Méliès could have done it, but only with a stationary camera!]. I propose that this word be “simultage”, in recognition of there being only three Google results for that word, none of which use it in a sentence.

Where else has the simultage been used?

One other note on Limitless: Abbie Cornish must have been cast / made up / directed to resemble Scarlett Johansson’s character in In Good Company [Paul Weitz, 2004]. The same character, slightly older and established in her career. Right? I was reminded of Johansson time and again, and Abbie Cornish doesn’t normally induce that response.

Scarlett Johansson in IN GOOD COMPANY; Abbie Cornish in LIMITLESS; Abbie Cornish in STOP-LOSS and in SUCKERPUNCH.

 

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