Slow cinema is not a movement. It is a way of thinking about film, about slowing down perception as if you had to lower your heartbeat or metabolism while watching. It’s like dreaming, which can also be stimulating in that you become acutely aware of image, of sound, of things slowing down. You can zone out and be bored, but you may also find it retunes you.
‘Films by 'slow’ directors such as Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Jia Zhangke, and Lisandro Alonso… scrutinise the mundanity of the everyday while creating an immersive experience for the spectator through long takes and a sound design that produces a dense auditory field. Shifts in pitch and timbre draw in the spectator more deeply, submerging us into the diegetic world of the film that is at times populated by the heavy drone of insect life, the violent sway of leaves in the trees or the reverberation of traffic noise. At other times, however, the films grant a sense of intimacy (sometimes uncomfortably so) through very localised sounds that appear too near or strangely audible considering their point of origin within the visual field. Often recalling the use of sound in structural-materialist films, in slow cinema ambient sound can become noise; detached from signification, the auditory dimension loses 'meaning’ and becomes 'feeling’, experienced on and through the body of the spectator, at the same time as it is experienced by characters onscreen.’
- Philippa Lovatt, 'Slow Sounds: Duration, Audition and the Intimacy of the Everyday in Liu Jiayin’s Oxhide and Oxhide II’, in Tiago de Luca and Nuno Jorge (eds), Slow Cinema, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, forthcoming.
we Malays, we Filipinos, are not governed by the concept of time. We are governed by the concept of space. We don’t believe in time. If you live in the country, you see Filipinos hang out. They are not very productive. That is very Malay. It is all about space and nature. If we were governed by time, we would be very progressive and productive. […] In the Philippine archipelago, nature provided everything, until the concept of property came with the Spanish colonizers. Then the capitalist order took control. I have developed my aesthetic framework around the idea that we Filipinos are governed by nature. The concept of time was introduced to us when the Spaniards came. We had to do
oracion [prayers] at six o'clock, start work at seven. Before it was free, it was Malay.
‘The dying and suffering animal, as Catherine Wheatley argues, is perhaps most readily associated with the films commonly subsumed under the 'new extremism’ umbrella, and indeed slow cinema might be closer to extreme cinema than is often acknowledged. As Tanya Horeck and Tina Kendall note, cinematic extremism pushes 'at the limits of the watchable and the tolerable’ and 'implicate spectators in particularly intensified ways…, demanding critical interrogation and ethical and affective response.’ This is certainly what happens in the case of [Bela Tarr’s Satantango, Carlos Reygadas’ Japon, and Lisandro Alonso’s Los Muertos], which quite literally stretch at the limits of the watchable through an impassive camera that records brutal events for minutes on end. That said, the trope of animal death would seem to hold a particular significance for slow cinema. Indeed…, I would like to suggest that it could be seen as the most logical, if also most extreme and radical, consequence of slow cinema’s aesthetic quest for meaningless cinematic time.’
Films watched in 2014 #45: Norte: Hangganan ng Kasaysayan (Norte: The End of History) (2013) Directed by Lav Diaz
It takes a delicate patience to watch films that are 250 minutes long, but it is these films that are ultimately the most rewarding. Norte is beautiful and sumptuous but at the same time powerfully heartbreaking. The camera barely moves, and instead hangs allowing one to get lost in the details of the shot. The quiet villages or empty city streets on screen invite one to be transfixed on tiny movements such as children playing in the distance or the soft rustle of palms in the wind. The long shots also force one to reflect on what happens, as everything plays out with brutal, unflinching realism. I was transfixed by this film, completely in love with its silence, but it did not necessarily feel shorter than it was. Many think the measure of a longer film is that it doesn’t feel like it is that long, but this is different. You definitely feel like you’ve watched something for four hours but that is really the point of it, it is meant to be a long, and slow-burning experience…