Friday, 23 August 2013

The long and short of film-making: films worth getting (un)comfortable for

A bad film - no matter how short - can feel too long. After all, if it’s no good then all you’re thinking about is how much longer you have to sit through it. How much longer must you wait before you can leave? If a film is good though, really good, time flies. You can sit in a cinema for hours and be so taken in by the story that, before you know it, three hours have gone by! Some stories, often those which are more complex, more elaborate and more detailed, simply cannot be told in 90 minutes. Or at least, they cannot be told well.

Before seeing Cloud Atlas on the big screen, I had heard plenty about how very long it was but, having already struggled with the immensely complex novel on which it was based, I was prepared. I nipped to the loo, ran for the premiere seats, and marvelled at one of the most ambitious, most impressive films I have ever experienced. Cloud Atlas lasted 172 minutes (just under three hours) and there is not one scene I would have lost. Enough had been trimmed already in order to make the story more palatable.

Similarly, Zero Dark Thirty was a film of great depth which dealt with political controversy and the very real and current events we all witnessed post 9/11. It had an incredibly impressive story arc and followed one woman’s determined mission to track down the world’s most wanted man. The final twenty minutes were so unbearably tense, I almost forgot to breathe. Zero Dark Thirty ran for 157 minutes.

We may not have the grand sweeping epics of earlier Hollywood these days but, for those who are still able, some filmmakers are, fortunately for film-fans, brave enough to make films that make you think, make you sit back in awe and ultimately just make you sit still for more than ten minutes. Which, in the current climate of speed and technology, may just be a marvel in itself.

Do you have a cut off time when it comes to cinema outings? What longer films do you think are worth sitting that long for...?

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