Cianfrance’s Place Beyond The Pines strongly evokes the feeling of passage—the passage of time, the passage of motion, the passage of ideas. The balanced structure harmonizes elements of cinematography, narrative, and ultimately narration to achieve a celebration of passing and the transaction between generations. The tripartite story illustrates how one life affects another, and how the experiences one person has makes an impact on the next. It effectively expresses a mimesis—an independent yet exacting replication—that a child may demonstrate; they are branches of the same tree, and one grows into the next.
The narration shows no hesitation, as the camera movement and story are constantly being propelled forward. The camera tracks and cranes inwards, almost always, at times as if the camera’s eye is looking right through the depicted objects and people. A particularly noteworthy example of this is the incredible car chase sequence, wherein a long take from the top of a cop car catches without break the movements of the scene. In real time and actual space, the camera’s radical indifference—imparted by its fixed placement on the car’s roof, catching only what is possible from that angle of the car as it traverses through the streets and park—manages to capture change through changelessness. Things change, yet they stay the same.
Other scenes capture the same sense of passing without the fixed camera. For example, after Luke dies, officers are seen horizontally through the window, and a pan transitions the image to a straight on long-shot of Luke dead on the ground. He was dead before the image of the officers, and the camera merely needed to catch up to what was already there. In this case, changelessness is captured through change. In both instances, passage, motion, and time are put on display, but on separate levels—once at the level of physical reality (actions immobilized through the stillness of the camera), and once at the level of consciousness (stillness actualized through the movement of the camera).
These effortless displays of camera movement help to propel the story forward, with each segment being a clear continuation of what happened previously, and to some extent the lives of previous characters. Luke’s (Ryan Gosling) actions find their way into Avery’s (Bradley Cooper) life and experiences which are then passed on to their children. From Luke’s motorcycle to his son’s, the passing of matter, time, and space becomes stabilized. A point of transmigration is found. The camera and music captures Jason (Dane DeHaan) riding beyond the pines in the manner it once captured his father. As he passes through time and space, propelled forward by the bike, he re-enlivens the spirit of the past. Luke’s life is not over at death, but continues and is illuminated in the lives of those he touched. Through Avery as a medium, his son carries on his legacy. Through change, a harmony is found, and the passing of things becomes eternalized in a single moment, in a single movement, in a single event.