I believe that contemplation, reflection and focus are essential to appreciating films and art in general. A lot of art (not all) takes time, concentration and active thinking on the part of the individual. It often requires reflection upon the art, both during and after experiencing it. Very few good works of art impact the person completely and in an instant. I also believe that without moments of silence (and by this I mean, not so much the absence of sound so much as the absence of distraction) and stillness, mentally and physically—contemplation, reflection and focus aren’t possible or highly unlikely. (I assume this is a non-controversial point, but if anyone disagrees with this, I’m opening to discussing it.)
Now, considering the world of the internet and wireless technology, should we be worried about the disappearance of silence and stillness? I think so. No one has a gun to his/her head forcing him/her to use a smart phones. Individuals can choose to turn off their smart phones, computers, TVs, etc., sit still and think in silence, but this is so uncomfortable or undesirable that I don’t think many people would choose this. (Try doing this for five minutes.) I think art that requires time and effort is in a bit of danger, especially once the Boomer and Gen Xers die out. Going to museum to look at visual art or listening to a forty minute symphony is so antithetical to the modern mode of living.
Now, I felt a little better about movies because one you go into a theater it is free from distractions (with some notable exceptions) and one sits still for the entire movie. However, more and more people don’t see movies in the theater. They see it on their laptop, TV screen/dvd player or smart phone. I can tell you that stopping the movie to check out another website was a temptation I succumbed to quite a bit. And, of course, there can be a lot of distractions in one’s home or wherever one happens to be watching a film on a mobile device.
But even if we still see films in the theater, when we leave the theater, will people have the time and will they put in the time to reflect and digest a film? Given the overload of distractions, I think this is less likely, and I believe this will greatly diminish the experience of movies.
“Now, considering the world of the internet and wireless technology, should we be worried about the disappearance of silence and stillness? I think so. "
David lynch agrees 100%. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKiIroiCvZ0
Knew a guy who was watching Apocalypse Now on his cell phone. I wonder what the hell he saw,
Knew a guy who was watching Apocalypse Now on his cell phone. I wonder what the hell he saw…
Heh. Perhaps you could make a case for watching some films on a cell phone, but that sure aint’ one of them.
Maybe All about Eve or My Dinner With Andre
I wouldn’t be surprised if My Dinner With Andre worked without visuals.
An interesting and important topic. Loss of silence and stillness is a threat to many things, chief among them an essential quality of life. We live (in the industrialized world at least) in an almost totally mediated environment. There is neither the time or the mental space for the contemplation necessary to develop the spiritual aspects of our nature (however one chooses to define them). Consequently, people are becoming shallow in some rather crucial ways. They do not truly know themselves and hence cannot truly know others and the world in which we live. Lack of self-knowledge can lead to apathy, callousness, and a fundamental estrangement from life and from nature. How common is it now to see someone walking down a street on a lovely day totally immersed in their cellphone? Everywhere there is information, but less knowledge, and still less wisdom. Facts are abundant but insufficiently digested with incorrect conclusions abounding. This clearly impinges on the political sphere but also on the scientific and artistic ones. I liken it to a society like ours where food is abundant but much of what is consumed is of the wrong kind and people grow overweight and diseased. To echo the famous dictum of the sixties, it is necessary to turn off in order to tune in.
As an ancillary item to this discussion I would offer this essay by writer Lewis Lapham called Post-Literate Media.
I would also strongly suggest the great book by Sven Birkerts The Gutenbery Elegies
Volupte Noir has it.
It doesn’t matter that watching Apocalypse Now on a phone is a horribly bastardized experience, it’s one extra bullet point that helps sell the phone. People call it freedom to indulge in every meaningless distraction. A cacophony. No silence. Silence makes you think, but we’ve been trained to avoid anything slightly _un_entertaining, so we sweep our problems under a rug by filling the silence with all the wonderful technology that we consider progressive even though very few people know how to progress inside with it. All for the economy, who cares about human beings.
Jazzaloha, your topics are always so friggin’ depressing.
“But even if we still see films in the theater, when we leave the theater, will people have the time and will they put in the time to reflect and digest a film? Given the overload of distractions, I think this is less likely, and I believe this will greatly diminish the experience of movies.”
I’m not sure about this. The people that are invested in cinema and love slowly digesting a film through thought and contemplation will always do so. Even with these distractions, a cinephile will allow themselves the chance to fully enjoy a film. I don’t think this will ever change, no matter what new electronic device is out there.
However for the casual movie goer, yes, they might go to the movies and upon exiting quickly pull out their iPhone and move on from the experience. But these people have always existed, haven’t they? If they didn’t have an iPod, they had something else. These people are letting Once Upon a Time in Anatolia marinate in their heads. In fact, they’re probably not even seeing Once Upon a Time in Anatolia. They’re probably seeing films that don’t require further contemplation.
You must have missed my fun and frivolous threads. I do try to throw them in every once and while, so that I’m not accused of what you’re saying. :)
But this discussion need not be depressing. Raising awareness to this issue can lead to positive changes.
The people that are invested in cinema and love slowly digesting a film through thought and contemplation will always do so. Even with these distractions, a cinephile will allow themselves the chance to fully enjoy a film.
Well, I’m not so sure about this. Because movies are so much more accessible and convenient, the number of films one can watch is a lot greater. Before my children came into the world, I had more time to watch films and sometimes I’d watch so many that some of the films would quickly vanish from my mind—as if I never watched it. I had to consciously slow the rate of watching films and also take the time to write about the films (which I rarely do now, at least not in the same way). But because of the number of films at my fingertips—plus the sheer number of films I wanted to see—slowing down to digest the films was not easy. Plus, taking the time to really try to understand the film could be hard work. It was tempting to just jump to the next film. I’m sure a lot of cinephiles can relate to what I’m saying. So I’m not as confident as you. I suspect cinephiles will to be even more disciplined to carve out time for the time of reflection I’m talking about.
However for the casual movie goer, yes, they might go to the movies and upon exiting quickly pull out their iPhone and move on from the experience. But these people have always existed, haven’t they?
Yeah, you’re probably right. Still, films may penetrate these individuals on a deeper level if they have time and “space” for reflection. But if the distraction-free moments disappear that’s far less likely to happen.
“Before my children came into the world, I had more time to watch films and sometimes I’d watch so many that some of the films would quickly vanish from my mind—as if I never watched it”
Well that’s your problem! haha
I understand what you’re saying and I certainly have done this too, particularly when I first started going to film festivals. I saw so many films in such a short amount of time that it made it difficult for me to properly enjoy them all. So what I did was I cut back – I didn’t see as many films and I tried to spread the screenings out over the length of the festival so I wasn’t seeing a bunch of films day after day. So I really think this is all within the power of the viewer and if you want to let a film digest, you will find ways to do it. For me, it’s not about quantity of films but about quality of the experience. If I see a really good movie, the last thing I want to do is see another one. Instead, I want to let the film sit with me for a while. This has happened before, where I’ll plan on seeing two films at a theater but then the first one moves me so much that I don’t want to erase that feeling by seeing another film so I’ll go home and skip the second film. This happened recently when I saw Goodbye, First Love – the movie evoked such a strong feeling that I didn’t want to do anything else for the rest of the day. Even now, three days later, the film is still in my head. I love when films can do this and wouldn’t trade it for anything (even a brand new iPad).
“But even if we still see films in the theater, when we leave the theater, will people have the time and will they put in the time to reflect and digest a film? "
Dude . . . leave the theater? You mean you’re not tweeting about the film while you’re still in the theater? (Twiitercism?) Yer sooo 20th century!
(seriously though, the answer to the OP question is YES)
I guess I’m not admitting that I don’t have a twitter account.
Seriously (@Santino), I have a friend, who is perhaps not a cinephile, but he’s more interested in films than the average moviegoer, who can’t watch a dvd with me without getting on his dang iphone at least once. That’s crazy, man. Actually, when I’m alone, I’m guilty of checking something online if the film gets slow, so call me the “pot.”
Well, let’s here some reasons—or have they all been said?
For me, it’s not about quantity of films but about quality of the experience. If I see a really good movie, the last thing I want to do is see another one.
Right, but have you ever tried to see a list of top 100 greatest films or something like the 1001 book? When you’re on that type of program, there’s a degree of pressure to see a lot of films. Or what about being on netflix? When I had dvds sent to me, I remember feeling pressure to get the most out of my money, but seeing them and shipping them back out on the same day they arrived.
The other thing is that you live in a good movie town (maybe the best?). So I imagine there isn’t much pressure to see the films right away.
Well, yes, this is all pretty obvious. But all is not lost.
First of all, it’s a modern problem but obviously there are people like us that can fight against and overcome it. I mean, this forum exists and we are here contemplating the problem.
Second of all, this is not a new concern. Watch Tarkovsky’s The Sacrifice or Antonioni’s Eclipse. You’ve probably seen one or both of them. The problem has always existed, and cinema itself has been seen as part of the problem, just as novels were seen as part of the problem. It’s that struggle with modernity. We want the comforts of society but we also want that connection with nature.
And that’s where the artist, the filmmaker has to come in. They have to show that struggle, that reality. It’s not enough to allude to the beauty and spirituality of the world in your work. Show the struggle, show the noise that gets in the way. Many people have already tackled this.
I’d like to say though, I feel very deeply about this, especially from an American perspective. Nowadays, everyone is rushing to be cynical and “athiest”, even the best among us. I constantly feel like I want to build a bigger spiritual connection with nature, and I try. I try by simply walking through forests and listening and looking in complete silence. I do not own a smartphone and do not want to. I use a basic cellphone for business. I feel like the internet has already done permanent damage to my brain, though.
*Two more things
-When I watch films at home, I use headphones, sit in the dark, and watch a film from beginning to end with no interruptions. Yes, sometimes it is hard.
-I went to see a Bresson retrospective a few months ago in NYC. 90% of the audience was composed of older intellectual people. They very obviously took this kind of stuff very serious and it made me happy, but I was hoping to see more young people.
“Right, but have you ever tried to see a list of top 100 greatest films or something like the 1001 book?”
Yeah, I can see how the pressure of trying to get through the list might ruin the experience of actually watching the films. That makes sense. I don’t typically look at lists and try to complete them (nor do I try to watch all of a filmmaker’s body of work). I take a more laid back approach – I’ll get around to that film when I get around to it. lol. But see this approach is something I learned; my goal with watching movies is to get the best experience possible, to get that “high” so to speak. And I’ve found that this approach is the best way at attaining that “high”. It’s like smoking a joint; if you don’t inhale and hold it in and instead smoke it like a cigarette, it’s not going to do much for you. haha
And speaking of living in Los Angeles, I do feel the pressure to hurry up and see a film while it’s in a theater. There are plenty of times when a movie comes out for one week and if it’s something I really want to see, I have to see it that week (because I’m afraid it’ll be gone). For instance this weekend there are six films coming out that I want to see and at least four of them are small films that potentially could be gone in a week (so I feel the pressure to either see them this weekend or next week after work).
This reminds of an article, I’ve looked for it to quote the author directly, but bassically, he was arguing that the loss of time spent in nature (a simlpe grove of trees in a municipal park counts) has actually lead to a measurable decrease in the practice of quality critical thought. That because Western society has become so very digital, has surrounded itself with concrete and targeted nature as the pervailing enemy, we are experiencing atrophy in our analytical and deep thought process skills.
I don’t think it’s a lack of disctractions that does away with our ability to digest information, but the type of distractions. For example, I read a couple of years ago one of Roger Ebert’s blog entries wherein he discussed the results of a survey that concluded extensive use of the Internet is a factor in a higher instance of shallow thought amongst the users. Roger said that he noticed this in himself saying that the Internets idiosyncratic ability for instantaneous information access at multiple layers rewires
…the brain. Distractions are unavoidable, even in sleep, random bits of information occur during the process of assimilation of a days experiences, but the difference between that, instances in nature, and distractions of the order of the Internet make all the difference.
Sorry for two posts, the flipping character box has a limit.
“That because Western society has become so very digital, has surrounded itself with concrete and targeted nature as the pervailing enemy, we are experiencing atrophy in our analytical and deep thought process skills.”
Yes, this is a huge problem, especially for where I live. I live about 2 hours from NYC (an hour if I drive directly). I live in the countryside, near farms and forests, and every day I am very happy I wake up to birds and trees and water, etc.
However, there are no jobs here. Friends keep pressuring me to conform and get a job in NYC and move closer to NYC or into NYC. I really do not want that life. But I also do not want to starve.
NYC has many great things, but I prefer to visit there. If it was my home, it would kill me.
Life is possible where the jobs are. An unfortunate truth nowadays. I don’t think it’s even possible to live off the grid in the US is it? Where would one acquire unGMO’ed seeds? How could one live near a clean water source without a large amount of $?
Watching movies is a bit of a hallowed, sacred act to me, I’m pretty strict about making sure the environment is always legitimate… if I’m going to watch a film, alone or with others and regardless which film, a few laws:
Basically laughing is permitted, beyond that… keep it to yourself. No distractions = the best chances for the most complete and deepest immersion, which I value quite highly. The credits are a very important time to just sort of relish in what you’ve just beheld, it tilts me endlessly to see people get up or talk or break out their phones as soon as the credits drop. Some films are so powerful that you can literally spend years, lifetimes even, contemplating and basking in their glory… surely out of respect for the art-form and the very, very difficult task that is quality filmmaking, you can sit through the credits and be respectful, even if the movie is very bad.
Not everyone feels this way, understandably, which is why I cannot abide the theater (unfortunate because I do so like a large screen and large sound). The popcorn, the phones, the slurping, the rustling of candy, excessive coughing, the chatter, the getting up to use the bathroom…. Not to mention the quality of the actual theater, is the sound volume right, do they have their base correctly leveled? Is the film being projected correctly, is it in focus? Is the screen clean and/or devoid of holes or tears? Are the lights correctly dimmed? And they always bring the fucking lights up as soon as the credits drop, sometimes even before! I understand there are safety concerns / legal obligations as far as fire hazards ect… but still, c’mon.
…Yeah. “The Theater.” Maybe if people weren’t so awful in general, I’ve just had so many horrible experiences… perhaps I’m just too sensitive for the theater, I will concede that it’s possible ;)
And I’ve found that this approach is the best way at attaining that “high”. It’s like smoking a joint; if you don’t inhale and hold it in and instead smoke it like a cigarette, it’s not going to do much for you. haha
Haha, nice. You’re right of course, and I’ve found that since I’ve stopped trying to complete a list of films, doing what you say has been a lot easier. (Then again, it’s not like I can see a lot of movies anyway. ;)
For instance this weekend there are six films coming out that I want to see and at least four of them are small films that potentially could be gone in a week (so I feel the pressure to either see them this weekend or next week after work).
Dang, I think that’s a worse situation, then not having many smaller films come to town. Double-edged sword, I guess.
I mostly agree with everything you’ve said.
You mean show the struggle to appreciate art (and connect with nature)? How would that really help the situation, though?
This reminds of an article, I’ve looked for it to quote the author directly, but bassically, he was arguing that the loss of time spent in nature (a simlpe grove of trees in a municipal park counts) has actually lead to a measurable decrease in the practice of quality critical thought.
Having that quiet time in nature is great, and I think it is important. But I don’t think one needs to have nature to create moments of reflection and contemplation. Spend a day at home without the computer, smart phone, TV and ipod—or at least a few of those things—and that will make a huge difference.
“You mean show the struggle to appreciate art (and connect with nature)? How would that really help the situation, though?”
The same way any art does. I mean, the combined filmography of Bresson and Tarkovsky, not to mention Ozu and Antonioni, have totally made me aware of this problem. Tarkovsky changed my life. Because of his films, I literally hear and see things in nature I never noticed before.
But obviously the problem is getting non-cinephiles or art lovers or whatever to pay attention to the artists first, so yes, it is a bit of a conundrum…to me, the individual has to make the effort for the art and nature first. The only reason I saw those guys was because I was a young, ambitious cinephile that wanted to know every filmmaker ever. Now, I wouldn’t even call myself a cinephile.
The best we can do is make films (if you make them) that strive to show this. Then, hope that some good people see it and make a zen garden or something.
I don’t have a phone either, out of my own (probably irrational) hatred of all things… like that. I know that obviously these gadgets and the internet can be incredibly useful (I owe my consciousness to the internet) but when I see that most people use them out of a need to own everything new, and that they only use them as pointless distraction, my irritation keeps me away. I (1 little boy) don’t wanna feed The Machine. I was gung-ho for all this stuff only a few years ago, a techie and all that, but now after removing all of it (finding silence) I’m angry that I was up to my eyeballs in it my whole life (blind). But since it’s all immaterial, they’re not gonna put warnings on any packages. We’ve become so short-sighted that something needs to physically harm us for us to realise that it’s bad. “If people are asleep a loud noise will wake them up”-JLG. A catastrophe will bring people out of it. This loss of silence is too gradual for anyone to notice. We’re just plain fucked.
Also… We’re always trying to take everything, gratify every immediate desire because the culture is selling us a false sense of freedom, so we end up with a cacaphony. Metaphor time: None of these sounds can clearly be heard, it’s a mess. But when you get to silence, every single individual sound that breaks it is perfectly clear. Bresson taught me that, in one day everything was radically different, more clear. Get to zero so you can break it.
JAZZALOHA, I agree with you. Nature is not the only set of parameters within which you can seriously mull over things. (By the way, I’m very happy you mentioned solitude at home as that has been one of the BEST experiences. Reading in quiet peace is AMAZING!) I just don’t think silence and freedom from distractions are all that necessary to deep thought. They certainly help to facilitate an environment where analytical thought can occur, but I’m sure that if you were in a cave with a tar-like silence and pitch black lighting, deep thought would not be substantially more of a possibility. (That last bit was mostly faceitious.)
So then the question would be: What sort of disctractions can be acceptable or even conducive to complex critical thought?
“when you get to silence, every single individual sound that breaks it is perfectly clear”
Unless you’ve spent so long in the cacophony that you’re deaf to anything else…
wow, most people actually agree on this topic!?!?!?!? Where the contrarians at?
Give it time i guess. it’s early days ;-)
“I just don’t think silence and freedom from distractions are all that necessary to deep thought. They certainly help to facilitate an environment where analytical thought can occur, but I’m sure that if you were in a cave with a tar-like silence and pitch black lighting, deep thought would not be substantially more of a possibility. (That last bit was mostly faceitious.)”
Well obviously. It’s civilization that has created the conditions for analytical thought and reflection. If you are living in a cave, you are not really part of civilization, at least not in the traditional sense.
Jesus, I didn’t realize how crazy Axel was. lol
But obviously the problem is getting non-cinephiles or art lovers or whatever to pay attention to the artists first, so yes, it is a bit of a conundrum…
Right. The people who see these films probably don’t need much convincing—they’re half way there at least. The trick is getting more people to the “half-way point,” if you know what I mean.
The best we can do is make films (if you make them) that strive to show this.
Actually, art lovers can make a better case for giving art a chance. When I was younger (in my twenties) I used to believe that those who loved the arts could do a significantly better job of making a compelling case for those who were largely indifferent to art—and that this could attract more people. I got away from this thinking, but I think it still might be true—at least I haven’t really seen compelling arguments made. Now, if art lovers made these arguments and they had little or no effect, maybe I’d feel differently.
I also think that critics can play a huge role. If they really help people understand and appreciate art, I really do think more people would enjoy it.
This loss of silence is too gradual for anyone to notice. We’re just plain fucked.
So what are we? Chopped liver? The people on this thread have noticed, right? As Joks alluded to, most of us agree so far—that’s a hopeful sign.
So then the question would be: What sort of disctractions can be acceptable or even conducive to complex critical thought?
My first response is to say—distractions that aren’t too distracting. If I’m riding in a bus, there are a lot of sounds and activity that can be distracting. But one can easily be lost in his/her thoughts in such settings. And it’s not just analysis, which connotes a highly cerebral activity, but reflection and contemplation, which has a less cerebral connotation. Letting something soak in, allowing the implications and connections to reveal themselves—part of this is often very cerebral, but not always.
I guess I won’t be coming to your house to watch films. ;) Actually, I share some of your feelings, but your post came across as a little more intense than me. I think I’d be afraid to watch movies with you, man. ;)
Hey, FWiW, I see a lot of loud, “hot air”, mindless nonsense in the cinema, but I also see a lot quiet, “meditative” nonsense that considers itself god’s greatest gift to all things profound and intellectual…
I think both can be true, the loud and the silent, because life is sometimes loud, sometimes silent. It all depends on what you expose yourself to. If you visit that unhallowed hellhole known as the “theater” often, you prob. see a lot of the loud stuff…
The way I filter the type of films I’m watching recently, I’m getting the “silent” stuff out the wazoo (hence that CCC thread.)
What, too far? XD
I remember when I was like 16 or 17, being thrown out of my parents house because I raised such a ruckus when my younger brother came down to the basement and starting typing on a computer right in the middle of Brazil… yeah…
Hey, if you’re gonna go, go all in. If you’re going to devote a large portion of your life to watching film, might as well watch them the right way, imo!