Luca Guadagnino Reveals Why We Are Who We Are Uses Freeze Frames

By Chris Harnick

The series writer, director and creator explains the story behind his editing choice.

No, your cable hasn’t perpetually been cutting out, We Are Who We Are has moments that are indeed briefly frozen in time. At first viewing, the frozen moments could be seen as random choices, but upon further study — and discussion with Luca Guadagnino — it’s clear there are specific reasons behind them.

How It Started

While editing an episode, Guadagnino said he was struck by a moment of change the character Caitlin (Jordan Kristine Seamón) was going through on screen.

“I like to think that I am an intuitive person, so I like to think that more than anything, what counts for me is to always get to things intuitively. Because at the end of the day, the subconscious is never lying. So, the ‘id’ is there to help me — probably, it’s about things that are inside me that I am letting go through [it],” Guadagnino said.

While working on a scene featuring Seamón’s Caitlin and Francesca Scorsese’s Britney discussing Caitlin getting her first period, Guadagnino said he told the editor to stop for a moment.

“It was so beautiful and powerful that I felt like it was important to really freeze it, to have it in our mind for long. In order for it to last longer than the actual moment would’ve lasted if you were cutting normally. And then I started to do that in other places in the storyline, in the narrative,” he explained. “At the beginning, I thought maybe this was my attempt to maybe freeze adolescence, that is a transformation process. Adolescence is never something specific, it’s something that continuously mutates, it doesn’t grasp a sense of self that can be considered fixed. So, I felt that maybe those freeze frames are a way for me to freeze the constant movement of adolescence.”

Then It Changed

After employing the freeze frame technique to the younger characters, Guadagnino turned to the adults in the storyline. A moment in Episode 6 between Alice Braga’s Maggie and Chloë Sevigny’s Sarah called for the use of the style.

“I always believed that our lives are dictated by many contradictions. For instance, the moment that Sarah and Maggie fight in a sort of unspoken aggressivity toward each other at the breakfast table...and then they are kind of bitchy with one another. Eventually they hug and Sarah says to Maggie, ‘Let’s have a bath,’ and she makes a little twist, and then we froze that. It was, for me, a testament to who these women are in their relationship, how complex and prismatic their relationship is and how we cannot confine their relationship to one thing. They fight, they cheat on one another. It’s more about the architecture of this relationship, this is alive. I wanted to pay deference to that,” Guadagnino said.

Check out Guadagnino’s technique in action in the clip below.

We Are Who We Are’s Freeze Frame

See Luca Guadagnino’s editing choice being used in the show.

Watch We Are Who We Are on HBO and stream on HBO MAX.