The Montage Trick

Rocky’s training sequences might be some of the best, but, whether it’s a heroic run through Philadelphia or Brigit Jones finding her inner strength, montages let us see our beloved characters pass through pain and heartbreak in the two and bit minutes it takes to play the good bits of a classic 80s’ tune. These scenes transport us through pain, effort, up-hill struggles (literally and metaphorically), and sadness with the comforting insider knowledge that, as the song fades out, there will be resolution, life altering change, and a light at the end of the tunnel. Montages, love them or hate them, consider them inspiring or lazy story telling, do a good job of getting past bad stuff quickly.

However, while our heroes and heroines get to live through tough times in the minutes it takes for Survivor to blast out Eye of the Tiger, we, stars only of our own lives, aren’t blessed with a musical fast-forward button.

Whether it’s grieving, working hard to be rewarded, or accepting that sadness and struggle are all part of the human condition, we can’t fast forward time, so we’d be crazy to try. Still, wouldn’t it be nice, just every now and again, to hit play and feel the deepest pain, push physically to the limit, or get a hair-cut, make-over and image change all with Danger Zone blasting over our battle, only to be gloriously done with it all in 180 seconds?

Maybe, yes. But, we don’t have that luxury, so I got to wondering how we do get by when the pace of change is not as fast as we’d like. Some of it must be the awareness that some things are worth waiting for. A fraction must be the knowledge that no feeling is absolute, and even in the worst of times, there is always brightness. And a good part of it must be the acceptance that we can’t change everything. The main driving force, however, is perhaps in the doing what you can and having faith that things will sort themselves out.

That said, I can’t help but wonder, if I had one chance, what my montage song would be and what you’d see happen to me. What awe-inspiring barrier would I overcome? What goal would I work hard at and achieve? And, most importantly, what slightly clichéd but undeniably classic song would see me through the struggle and fade out as I emerge a new, confident and eternally happy woman?

(Maybe it’d be one of these?)

Best foot forward

Even if it were possible to pick one song and one scene, one huge question would remain: would I really press play? Because I’m not sure that if you come out of the other end of a problem too quickly, or get what you want too easily, you grow as much as you need to. And, on the contrary, often when you look back, your memories behave like a montage anyway, with selected, significant moments, weaving into a past you recall and share. A montage at a slower pace, just lacking the inspiring soundtrack…

Of course, it’s all what ifs and hypothetical reflection; we go forward every day at the same pace, with ups and downs, and highs, lows and lots of middlings. We build our montages, leaving most scenes on the cutting room floor. Our memories are our soundtracks. Similarly, we are our own leading actor, award-winning some days, panned by the critics on other days, coping anyway, no matter how needed the pause, play, rewind or fast-forward button is.


I’ve given it quite a bit of thought, and, well, my montage song has never really changed. It’s this from Sliding Doors. It’s a chick-flick classic, with just enough angst and plenty of uplifting sections to see me out of any struggle. 


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