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Boredom as Valid Criticism

El hombre huevo

over 2 years ago

It’s always struck me as odd that someone could describe a film as (taken from a wall post on this site), “…gory, funny at times and totally unrealistic. Here’s a cinema that… tries to create something new from the ashes of its references. It’s idle, completely pointless but thoroughly enjoyable,” and that description is one that not only garners excitement but, more than likely, increases the interest many would have in viewing a film like that (which I’m not going to name).

In essence, gore, pointlessness and unreality are all starting points for cinematic discussion. They all have negative points attached and positive ones, but they are never seen as the end in-and-of-themselves.

However, as soon as a film, any film, is described as “boring” it is seen as a dismissal of the film in its entirety. Why? What is boredom? Boredom is an emotional, intellectual and psychological reaction to one’s surroundings. Well, wait… that’s what criticism is; an emotional, intellectual and psychological reaction to a work of art (entertainment, cooking, or what have you).

So, being bored isn’t an end. It’s a beginning. To be bored in a film once must answer a few questions. First, is the film trying to create this reaction? If yes, then one must look at how that reaction is created. Is it a cultural thing; Adoor Gopalakrishnan has stated it makes no sense for his films to move quickly as the lives he depicts are extremely mundane and slow? Is it political; Godard refusal of narrative for pure polemic discussions of things like youth? Is it just in the loss of narrative (the possibilities here are rather large)? How does the film engage without the actual element of engagement? If the reaction is inborn in the film then it should be treated as a creation of the filmmakers and discussed in the same manner one would discuss any other element of creation within a film.

If the answer is no, one must then ask if the boredom comes from the film, or from themselves. If the former one must decide how and why the film fails to engage you, and in doing so you’ve then created another realm of criticism beyond just a simple reaction (a starting point, not an end). If the latter then one should correct that which is causing that reaction before continuing with the work, because I fear that’s what happens 90% of the time when someone says a film is “boring,” especially if one just stops at that point.

No emotion or idea discovered during the course of experiencing a work is an end. They’re all starting points.

Dennis...Brian

over 2 years ago

the only sin a film can have is boredom

it is all tied into pacing

El hombre huevo

over 2 years ago

Again, that presupposes pacing is out of control of the filmmaker.

Matt Parks

over 2 years ago

Boredom is a response; “boring” is not a quality of a work. Nothing wrong with saying “I was bored”, but now we’re talking about something else.

Robert W Peabody III

over 2 years ago

@ Matt “boring” is not a quality of a work.

A film can not be boring?
… beg to differ

El hombre huevo

over 2 years ago

Exciting is a response. If one calls something exciting it’s not seen as an end. Explore the response, that’s what I’m talking about.

Robert W Peabody III

over 2 years ago

I re-edited.

Me too !

El hombre huevo

over 2 years ago

Yeah, I re-edited.

BALISTI​K

over 2 years ago

A film can be exciting in many ways but boring means only one thing : the pace is too slow. That’s why people tend to describe in detail how a film is exciting but don’t do it if they feel it’s boring.

Matt Parks

over 2 years ago

“… beg to differ”

OK . . .

Robert W Peabody III

over 2 years ago

@ Matt
You’ve said that linear three-act films bore you.

stacine​ss

over 2 years ago

I watched a movie today that I found to be rather boring, but it wasn’t the pace that bothered me. There was a bit of predictability in it, the dialogue was simple-minded with a few lines that attempted to be clever but seemed cliche to me, and I didn’t care about the characters too much. I admit that I just may not have gotten the point the director was trying to make yet, and once I get it I may feel differently.

Matt Parks

over 2 years ago

Yeah, but that’s not because a particular film is “boring” (it’s also, fwiw, not a pacing issue), it’s a relation that these films bear to the totality of cinema in my head—been there, done that.

Robert W Peabody III

over 2 years ago

Oh, so it is subjective thingy?
C’mon, a film can be boring.

ZED

over 2 years ago

The fourth and fifth paragraphs of the OP about what “one must” do could apply only to the most serious of film viewers – you can’t really expect most film fans, and certainly not a general audience, to do that. It ain’t gonna happen.

Matt Parks

over 2 years ago

“C’mon, a film can be boring.”

Is a close-up less boring than a long shot?
Is a long take more boring than furious montage?
Is a zoom more boring than a tracking shot?
Is action less boring than dialogue?
Are silents more boring than sound films?
Is b&w more boring than color?
Is 3-D less boring that 2-D?
. . .

El hombre huevo

over 2 years ago

“A film can be exciting in many ways but boring means only one thing : the pace is too slow.”

Actually, as I stated and numerous have stated after, a film can be boring in a multitude of ways. Pacing is not inherently the reason. I, personally, find most blockbusters the most boring thing I can think of and those are usually the fastest paced films.

“I watched a movie today that I found to be rather boring, but it wasn’t the pace that bothered me. There was a bit of predictability in it, the dialogue was simple-minded with a few lines that attempted to be clever but seemed cliche to me, and I didn’t care about the characters too much. I admit that I just may not have gotten the point the director was trying to make yet, and once I get it I may feel differently.”

Which is what I’m extolling. That people find a reason, even if it’s the admit isn’t absolute.

“The fourth and fifth paragraphs of the OP about what “one must” do could apply only to the most serious of film viewers – you can’t really expect most film fans, and certainly not a general audience, to do that. It ain’t gonna happen.”

Hence, why I posted this on here and not not on IMDb, or Y!A.

There are plenty of serious filmgoers that believe boredom to be a mortal sin, without really ever considering why that is. All I’m urging is that you don’t treat a response, a reaction, an idea, an emotion (whatever you want to call it) as an end in-and-of-itself. I’m not telling us to revolutionize film criticism, or mainstream perceptions therein. I’m asking you to discuss this with me, whether you believe what I said is right or wrong (which unfortunately will have to wait until tomorrow… Panahi and Reichardt await!).

odilonvert

over 2 years ago

If the answer is no, one must then ask if the boredom comes from the film, or from themselves. If the former one must decide how and why the film fails to engage you, and in doing so you’ve then created another realm of criticism beyond just a simple reaction (a starting point, not an end). If the latter then one should correct that which is causing that reaction before continuing with the work, because I fear that’s what happens 90% of the time when someone says a film is “boring,” especially if one just stops at that point.

No emotion or idea discovered during the course of experiencing a work is an end. They’re all starting points.

Wow that is heroic. Sometimes I find something does not engage me. And I’m not in the mood to change my opinion. (though I might be some years from then)

House 0f Leaves

-moderator-
over 2 years ago

I agree that the emotion or idea is a starting point. If it doesn’t go any further than that then it’s lost. More on this later.

Jirin

over 2 years ago

Our generation spent their entire childhood overstimulated. Everything is boring.

But, if a boring film gives me a reason to be patient, the rewards are often greater than those of an exciting film.

DownByL​aw

over 2 years ago

The Unspoken Cinema film site got its start with a provocative joke about “Boring Art Films” before they switched to the more usable and alliterative “contemplative cinema”. The joke works, of course, not because such films are boring, but because some kinds of audiences find them so. But that is true more generally. There can be films that most everyone finds boring, perhaps because they are poorly made and we might even agree on why they are poorly made. I don’t see that that makes “boring” a property of the film.

NIGHTSH​IFT

over 2 years ago

“Our generation spent their entire childhood overstimulated. Everything is boring.”

Strangely enough, some young folks I know in my building walked out of Transformers 3 ‘coz they got ’bored to death’ by all the stupid transformations.

odilonvert

over 2 years ago

^lol Bored by transformations, hilarious! Wonder if they find Lady Gaga and before that Madonna boring… Maybe if they were CGI…

Jirin — what was the root of the overstimulation, just curious. That definitely wasn’t a characteristic of the kids of my generation.

House 0f Leaves

-moderator-
over 2 years ago

Odi—Ha! I was at a bar earlier and Lady Gaga was on a television (no sound, but I think it was Saturday Night Live).

Anyway, I saw her act and I asked, “Is that Lady Gaga or someone making fun of her?” I wouldn’t know the difference. I then asked, “Is she pretty?” Because I can’t tell underneath all that shit. Not that that’s important, but I was curious.

Dylan

over 2 years ago

I would have to agree that a film cannot be boring. If we are bored, if have have boredom – I’m not sure which is more correct – that stems from within ourselves. A film may not be as stimulating for us as it may be for someone else. An espresso for a non coffee drinker would have a much greater effect than a single espresso would on someone that takes it every morning. The unique thing is in the drinker, not the drink. I suppose this gives credence the the statement that our generation could be over stimulated.

If a film is meant to bore you and you really think about why it’s attempting to do that you may uncover something much more stimulating.

…the more I type the less I remember what I wanted to say. I wanted to reference Satie and his Vexations but I’ve forgotten how I was going to do that.

Christopher Connell

over 2 years ago

“Drama is life with the dull bits cut out.”
– Alfred Hitchcock.

I think if I say I’m a total Paulette, one would know where I stand.

@Wu Yong – That AG quote interestes me because it show that he sees cinema as truth that can replicate life, rather than lies which can only refract it.

@Balistik – I disagree. If the pace of a film is too high, it can be numbing, and therefore boring. Or, the if the aesthetics fail to affect.

@Jirin – If a boring film gives me a reason to be patient, it ceases to be boring.

@Matt Parks – “Boring” is a quality of work because it engenders the response. Or everything is purely a response and nothing is a quality of work.
Oh and:
No.
No.
No.
Yes.
Sometimes.
No.
Obviously no.

Mischa

over 2 years ago

Boredom is a value judgement; it is an emotional response, just as excitement is. That is, it has little to do with the film itself and much to do with the audience who absorbs it.

Example: one person may be “bored” by Tokyo Story whilst another person may be “thrilled” by it, for wildly varying reasons, all related to the various elements inherent in the film. This doesn’t make Tokyo Story itself either “boring” or “thrilling”.

“Boring” and “thrilling” are value judgements which have little to do with analytical criticism from an impersonal historical/cultural perspective i.e. from the perspective of measuring the impact of a film upon specific cultures during specific times.

However, if a reviewer is trying to determine whether or not a particular film is “great”, then imo that reviewer must realise that this question will be relative to whichever particular function is being prescribed to it by that reviewer in that instance (i.e. either an impersonal historical/cultural function OR a more personal function), which may or may not be related to their personal emotional response to that film depending upon that particular function.

Mischa

over 2 years ago

Also, when I wrote that boredom has little to do with the film itself and much to do with the audience who absorbs it, I was really just trying to say that any particular film cannot be inherently “boring” (see the Tokyo Story example) – HOWEVER, the inherent properties of the film will obviously have some level of influence upon the resultant emotional response from any particular viewer of it, EVEN IF the creator of the film has no direct control over how each individual will emotionally respond to his/her creation (i.e. with “boredom” or “excitement”).

Mischa

over 2 years ago

… and people also have the potential to evolve their emotional responses to particular films over time and place, because they will presumably gain various opportunities to learn a greater variety of perspectives on those films, and they will also gain knowledge and experience in other areas of their lives which may affect their emotional responses to specific films or to cinema in general. For instance, a person who is currently “excited” by a specific film may be “bored” by it 20 years (or however many years) later, and vice versa.

Kenji

over 2 years ago

A relative shortage of apparent stimuli can be interesting while a bombardment of explosions, fast editing and swirling camera can be mind-numbing. When i walked out of Men in Black years ago (among a few others) it was because i expected it had nothing of value to offer to make its tosh worth enduring. I would say films like Independence Day and Dark Knight, along with countless other bombastic rollercoaster rides apparently designed to excite and entertain, are boring. Capra said a cardinal sin for a film is to be dull; but that too is in the eye and mind of the beholder.