Xavier Dolan’s award-winning Mommy was one of the most interesting film experiments of the last few years, having been shot primarily in 1:1 aspect ratio. It’s a risk that pays off when the film reaches its emotional climax, during which the aspect ratio changes. It sounds, as Dolan has said, “pretentious,” but in the context of the intimate story of the film, it works, and seems essential to the power of the movie. And so it’s a wonder that Netflix UK has cropped and adjusted Dolan’s film. It’s no wonder, though, that Dolan has angrily responded via Twitter.
The entire letter can be found in Dolan’s tweet below, but the gist of his argument is this: Dolan created a piece of art, Netflix is providing that art to the public, and in doing so has altered that art fundamentally. It seems kind of insubstantial, but it’s actual an important question to ask: what does Netflix owe to its content providers, and how far is too far when it comes to how content is altered in its delivery?
We’ve written about Netflix’s weird aspect ratio requirements before — back in 2013! — but nothing seems to have changed. Could Mommy‘s distributor have provided an altered version of the film without alerting Dolan? And, if so, do they owe him that consultation, or even an apology?