In a world of three second takes, Michael Bay movies and explosions, patience in cinema with long takes and wordless scenes are difficult. After all, why watch an old farmer herd goats and eat dust in “Le Quattro Volte” (The Four Times) or a washed up country star try to find redemption in “Tender Mercies”? As French philosopher Jean Jacques-Rousseau said, “Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.”
In a movie like “Transformers” the viewer “sees,” but in a movie like “Volte” the viewer “watches.” It’s a natural consequence of watching a single shot drawn out over 10-15 minutes. At that point, what’s not seen is as equally, or more, important than what’s seen.
That’s not to say popcorn flicks are a bad thing. They’re often harder to read than something overtly metaphorical or allegorical.
Movies are a special thing. With a book, the reader can choose how fast or slow to read, but with a movie, the viewer’s experience is up to the director. But what’s the point? There’s a point in Bela Tarr’s swan song “The Turin Horse” where there’s nothing interesting happening on-screen because, if the movie’s done its job, the viewer will be somewhere else entirely.
These types of movies are meditations on ideas instead of outright explorations. They take a theme and put it through the ringer in the first 5-10 minutes and deal with the philosophical consequences for the remaining time. The viewer should meditate with it.
If one really sticks with a slow, meditative flick, they’ll reap the rewards by the end. Slow-burning cinema is meant to leave a mark.
Now, there are widely released movies that have just as much as emotional or existential punch — “Schindler’s List,” “12 Years a Slave” and “The Lego Movie” come to mind. And when it comes down to it, Hollywood is a business and executives see some movies as investment-worthy and others as not. Chances are “Schindler’s List” wouldn’t have made $320 million if it were as drawn out as “The Turin Horse.”
Give the slower movies a look. They’re a cerebral experience. When attention is at a deficit, it’s more than worth it to give patience a chance.