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Is the Loss of Silence and Stillness a Threat to Movies and Art?

Santino

almost 2 years ago

^I just had a similar discussion on Facebook.

“Hillcoat’s new film Lawless looks awesome” (trailer is attached)
“It looks boring, like The Road”
“The Road was riveting!”
“No it wasn’t, it was a snoozefest”

AxelUmo​g

almost 2 years ago

The Road… I did not like that film, all that sentimentality about the wife / mother… a bland and desaturated post apocalyptic present, oh against colorful and happy flashbacks of the wife… how freaking obvious is that.

And my god don’t get me started on the attack of the falling trees sequence, they basically wanted to throw a little action scene is, so with fast cuts WATCH OUT HERE COME THE TREES.

And it really annoyed me SPOILER ALERT the way the wife just walks off into the night, like she’s so scared for her family that one second ago she’s going to just kill the kid and end it all… but her solution is to not actually shoot herself or do anything, but just to strut out into the dark…. Seems realistic.

And Lawless also looks dumb from that trailer, imho.

Joks

almost 2 years ago

The Road(the novel)=great
The Road(the movie)=ok.

just my opinion.

Hillcoat is an interesting director but his movies are not well paced imo.

toddj

almost 2 years ago

I think that the topic is a quite important one, and it goes by different names depending on which philosopher we’re talking about.

Baudrillard calls it the hyperreal, Virilio calls it the dromosphere, Vattimo the transparent society, Lyotard the postmodern condition.

But I think the concept of electracy best gets at what we’re dealing with: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electracy

Whether the condition of speed we’re living in now will someday erase our ability to contemplate is very much in the air, but I think that there’s a way in which all of these ways of looking at our current moment stress elements related to contemplation, like the emphasis on sensual experience and “body knowledge.” I think that this might be the way that cinema will be retained even in an age when a glorious film like Shame will get left on the cultural scrapheap.

Matt Parks

almost 2 years ago

“I forgot to comment on this point—which is really counter-intuitive when you think about it. Shouldn’t the opposite be the case? Given the amount of people online, shouldn’t we see more over-lap?”

Well, in my experience, because there has been such a proliferation of access points, what you’re really getting is slight overlaps with many more people rather than a small group of people with matched experiences.

. . . which, on the one hand is great because it gives you access (indirectly) to a whole series of new experiences and ways of thinking about stuff, but on the other hand it can lead to a Tower of Babel effect if you aren’t able to impose some sort of generally agreed upon order on the conversation, if indeed you can’t pause a conversation for a moment of contemplation. etc.

Jirin

almost 2 years ago

I’m going to a meetup this Saturday called ‘Slow art day’ where the idea is we go to the MFA, pick out a piece of art and look at only that piece of art for a long time.

I don’t think we’re seeing a disappearance of silence and stillness. Older people still appreciate both those qualities. It’s just that before all this connectedness, kids would get bored and go out and play baseball or spend all day on the phone (Actually talking over the phone) instead of doing everything on their smartphone apps and internet sites.

I question the romanticized past where everybody had this ability to contemplate. Sure, it was a lot harder to bore somebody but slower art was more popular because it was more trendy. Most people weren’t really spending the time to contemplating it. They looked at the art they were supposed to then went to the pub, drank and played darts.

VOLUPTE NOIR

almost 2 years ago

Polaris​DiB

almost 2 years ago

^ I question those ideas too but it’s difficult to articulate and differentiate. After all, ‘leisure time’ is a relatively modern, actually post-Industrial, phenomenon, but it’s not like there was no leisure time before the Industrial Revolution. Farmers certainly had more time to contemplate while they did their farming, but who’s to say agrarian thought was any more or less contemplative than this here Internet conversation? Yet that’s also a false dichotomy, a misinterpretation of very different cultural and historical settings, basically different human beings altogether.

The issue I have about the argument for contemplation is that it connotes some sublimated or enlightened perspective, and my own opinion about the past is that it is far from indicative of the sublime or enlightenment. OR, it assumes that people don’t use media to contemplate, when many people are fond of using music for downtime or writing in a blog to pull together their thoughts of the day or, well, read, which apparently is a more ‘contemplative’ than ‘distractive’ medium (despite requiring literally unnatural cognitive development be imprinted into the forelobe, and if that unnatural process isn’t impounded enough then the human is criticized for being ‘illiterate.’ Think about it from that perspective for a little bit, how strange literacy is and the fact that we value it as knowledgeable or more contemplative than visual media, or that criticism of televised media itself was a big reason why people mostly remained media illiterate, because you couldn’t convince book-learners to teach television literacy in school).

I agree that increased access to information in no way makes increased knowledge or wisdom, but I have seen absolutely no proof whatsoever or in any way or form that previous generations were more knowledgeable or wise, and I do have proof that they had less information. Oftentimes these very measurements of ‘knowledge’ and ‘wisdom’ are defined by the nature of communication that has changed, so that those operating in a previous/older medium see the decline of that medium as a decline in wisdom/knowledge and those operating in the replacing/newer medium see the increase of that medium as an increase in wisdom/knowledge. It is, rather, a somewhat Joycean result: “I am the sum total of who I’ve always been and everything that’s happened to me.” Human knowledge is the sum total of human nature and how it uses its information, not how much information it has. I.e., humanity is its civilization and current mass media.

Or, to state it in another way, ‘People are shallower than EVER BEFORE’ is so five minutes ago, brah. They’ve been saying that shit since Plato. It’s post-retro-post-retro-post-retro.

It’s unclear to me what it is about ‘people’ that makes them so stupid as a pluralism whereas any individual conversations between individuals indicates the rather rare and idiosyncratic idiot, notable because of how exceptionally stupid he or she is, yet 50% of people are dumber than average, as the joke goes. That dialog is constant in a manner I do not think we really can ignore. For some reason, even Men in Black says it better than most sociologists: “The person is good. People are dumb, scared, crazy animals and you know it.”

My personal opinion on the matter is that it’s bullshit that people were in the past any more contemplative than they are now, at least to any significant measurement; rather, we’re always in some social change or another so the decided and set movements of the past seem clearer and the way people thought easier to define than now. For instance, you read an article today about ‘textophrenia’, the phenomenon of someone thinking they are receiving a text message when they are not. You have a conversation about how fucked up that is, how our minds are totally blown away by these cellphone things and dear god what is happening to us? But where was phone-call-phrenia back in the days when people would suddenly say, “Did you hear that? Oh I thought we just got a phone call…” or refrigeratorphrenia for when people would forget what they were doing and so for whatever reason just walk to the refrigerator and open it? What was previously material for stand up comedy (‘What is the deeeal with that!’) is now op-ed articles on the slow decay of the Universe.

Did you know that one of the reasons we forget things when we walk from one room to another is because when we cross through a door, it signals our brain that the situation has changed? That, “I just walked in the room and forgot what I came in here for” is the medium of households boxing in our memories and ruining our brains. Alas for the pre-housing days when we sat outside with more open minds and better memory (and felt the rain instead of getting wet like we do in this post-shelter world).

… is what I’m saying these arguments sound like to me, especially since I feel like everyone thinks everyone else is the one that isn’t contemplative/knowledgeable/wise enough but they themselves have their ‘me’ time that the rest of the world apparently never does… observable from all the times we go outside and interact with other people and see how they’re always interacting and never just sitting in silence in their own room away from where we can… observe them….

—PolarisDiB

Santino

almost 2 years ago

@Polaris

“My personal opinion on the matter is that it’s bullshit that people were in the past any more contemplative than they are now, at least to any significant measurement;”

Can you explain then why more contemplative (and slower) films were more popular 40+ years ago compared to today? It used to be that the films that made the most money at the box office also had the best reviews. Now it’s the complete opposite.

To me it seems pretty clear that with the advent of modern technology, people have changed dramatically over the past 50-100 years.

Polaris​DiB

almost 2 years ago

I’m not going to argue that things haven’t changed (they have), and commercialism has its effect, but let’s also think about the theory that points out that movies are faster because audiences catch the image faster — it needn’t necessarily be about speed of cuts, per se, but as written language has advanced into more complicated and diverse structures so has even film sequencing. Remember when audiences had to expend mental energy working out the non-chronological narrative structure of Pulp Fiction, and how today these things are all like, “Oh yeah I know what’s going on, no problem”?

I’m arguing against larger assumptions of modern humans being any more or less contemplative, knowledgeable, or wise in comparison to historical evidence. History is difficult to deconstruct, but is still several times more static than current changes. To return the conversation to how this relates to art, some people actually see modern movies as an improvement on the past. I think that’s like saying ’What’s better, Homer’s Odyssey or Joyce’s Ulysses?‘, they’re incomparable albeit informed by each other, even retroactively.

—PolarisDiB

VOLUPTE NOIR

almost 2 years ago

TELEVISION LITERACY???

Santino

almost 2 years ago

Precisely. People today have been conditioned to expect quicker cuts, etc. So when they don’t get those quicker cuts – when they see a film that has longer takes and has scenes that play out in wides and doesn’t exclusively rely on the close-up, they freak out. And I’m not even talking about Bela Tarr extremes. I’m talking about normal pop culture movies. For instance, I’ve heard many people today who have told me they hate Rosemary’s Baby because it’s so slow and boring. But did people in 1968 feel that way? I doubt it. I have to think that this kind of conditioning has effected people in ways outside of how they digest cinema.

We’ve gone down the rabbit hole and there’s no climbing ourselves out.

Polaris​DiB

almost 2 years ago

^^ A media essentialist.

Television literacy exists, by the way. Because it was never accepted academically, it became a ‘watchdog organization’ sort of movement, the people who watch television to point out its errors. There are also television literacy movies that are very commonly shown in public schools, like Merchants of Cool or that one famous one that deconstructs commercials for children to understand how they operate, and sometimes media literacy efforts would take the form of things like Channel One news station et al.

Think about it like this. Television is not in and of itself a bad medium, it was just never used widely in a very good way. Because commercials paid the television bills, television was more commercial than it was instructional or democratic — it didn’t have to turn out that way, it just did. So if you say that television as a medium itself is essentially illiterate, you’re wrong — to say it’s historically illiterate is correct, because we never made it literate. Now it’s technically more literate than before: TV on DVD has increased content quality and production value as networks have discovered that people are more willing to buy shit when it’s actually good. However, the Internet has replaced television as the new big medium and its still mostly text-based method of communication as well as democratic accessibility and better informational structure has given it much more critical street cred as regards its possibilities for ‘literacy.’ Television never got that respect so it never had a chance to earn it, so it never became literate.

—DiB

VOLUPTE NOIR

almost 2 years ago

Right, Santino. Again, I would refer to Birkerts’ book The Gutenberg Elegies. The predominance of electronic media, specifically video games, cellphones, internet imagery and bite-sized information, is changing the ability of people immersed in this soup of sound and image to process longer and deeper trains of thought. The proof of this is the rise of ADHD and the lack of focus and attention of young people who couldn’t (and wouldn’t) read The Odyssey and Ulysses, much less compare them.

Drunken Father Figure of Old

almost 2 years ago

^ :D I had a looong discussion with a friend about whether or not printed media are an inherently superior art form than tv. I just don’t understand how you could possibly think that they are!

Polaris​DiB

almost 2 years ago

“The proof of this is the rise of ADHD and the lack of focus and attention of young people who couldn’t (and wouldn’t) read The Odyssey and Ulysses, much less compare them.”

Again, ADHD is increasingly observed today but not necessarily nonexistent or less existent in the past (textophrenia is a thing we worry about, telephonephrenia and refrigeratorphrenia never existed). My uncle was diagnosed with ADHD when he reached 70 … he’s had it his whole life and it was never observed because it wasn’t a phenomenon we recognized.

Better proof I have is my experiences in the United Arab Emirates. There, they do not recognize many of the learning disabilities and emotional disabilities that have become recognized in the West. In fact, culturally they are resistant to men wearing glasses because they see glasses as a sign of weakness. Compare data charts and the UAE has a heavily statistically smaller rate of learning disabilities and better eyesight. From first hand experience, they’re on the level with us (except their education is worse; they get more A’s but at lower levels, so ’Mericans are le stupid with their C averages in trig but Emiratis are smarter with their A averages in algebra).

I’m pretty sure more people read The Odyssey today than most of history, and a large reason for that is because we actually assign it in these very modern institutions called public high school classes; certainly there was a time it was held in higher esteem, and that was back when academies were classist institutions for the rich and knowledge of Homer was part of an identifier of the elite… after all, all those dumb idiot proletariats were watching those flickers in nickelodeons learning how to rob trains and stuff, the dirty immigrants.

To think that they actually teach film courses in universities these days. Literacy is doomed.

—PolarisDiB

VOLUPTE NOIR

almost 2 years ago

Several points. I am not inherently against television. Hell, I was watching television and films thirty years before you pups were born. I watch great series on HBO etc. all the time. But it is distressing and ironic to speak of television literacy when actual literacy (in the literal sense of the word) is flagging badly. And printed media has about a five hundred year head start on television and film. If I didn’t love film, I wouldn’t be on this site, now would I? But the history of printed media is so vast and varied and rich that there is really no comparison. But the essential point is being lost here. It’s not that electronic devices are intrinsically bad. Again, I have a laptop, a smartphone, a tablet, a CD player (several) and DVD player. I am hardly a Luddite or an “essentialist.” But when those devices are used to the exclusion of reading or contemplation (however one wants to frame that) then something essential is being lost. Santino is on track here. I have worked with kids for decades and I have seen a steady loss of the ability (generally) to be able to read for content and engage in discursive thought on what has been read. Those who feel that this ability is not important are part of the problem. Incoming college freshman are often unable to write a simple, intelligible essay about anything, including television. Presumably the respondents on this site are the exception, but that doesn’t alter the prevailing drift.

Besides, I sense an inherent defensiveness about literacy on these boards which is all too common among the very young and which merely serves to prove my point.

Matt Parks

almost 2 years ago

The world is getting noisier and brighter, and the universe seems to be accelerating, so . . .

Jirin

almost 2 years ago

I’m curious if there are statistics to back up the claim that films that received higher reviews made higher box office. I’d like to see that compared to today.

Though even if that trend is true, I propose this experiment:

Take the total gross after six months, divide it by the first weekend gross. I would bet a very strong correlation between the resulting dividend and the quality of reviews. That would be something like a ‘word of mouth’ index. Quality doesn’t affect whether people see a movie right when it comes out, but it sure affects whether people continue seeing it later.

And I think the reason movies were slower before is, back then a movie had to please all demographics, both young and old. Now there are movies that are made only for younger people, and they’re more digestible if they move faster. Whereas there’s also movies like King’s Speech which are the correct pace to be digestible for older people.

I’m also of the opinion that art should continuously be threatened. To quote Neil Young, “It’s better to burn out than it is to rust”. If art survives too long it ceases to be art.

@Polaris

I question the notion that leisure time is an invention of the industrial revolution. I believe anywhere there was a flourishing marketplace, there was leisure time.

All I’m saying, you know what they found when they dug out Pompeii, right? ;)

@Santino

I agree that there’s no climbing out, short of a massive disaster that plunges the world into another dark age (Which I’m not entirely ruling out). But I question whether this trend is a good or a bad thing.

I might argue that being able to outsource trivial information from our brain to electronic devices, there’s more room in our brains to focus on building up skill sets. It’s the same way how, when you’re married to someone who’s great at remembering birthdays, you lose all ability to remember birthdays on your own. When we don’t have to spend mental resources remembering every day facts we can specialize our intellect in other ways.

Stu Witmer

almost 2 years ago

Nice cartoon VOLUPTE NOIR… I’m gonna pass it on!
Interesting conversation… here’s my two cents:

Saw The Turin Horse the other day and I must say that the theater was totally silent the entire time…. but then there were only 5 other people in the audience.

Polaris​DiB

almost 2 years ago

“the prevailing drift.

Besides, I sense an inherent defensiveness about literacy on these boards which is all too common among the very young and which merely serves to prove my point."

I personally get defensive because when people are pointing at ‘us’ saying, “You’re dumber than we used to be” we’re just saying, "Um, statistically speaking that’s not true and oh hey look we’re capable of linking to the evidence that you’re wrong ". Weird stats like devices seem to be increasing reading are more debatable but the debate usually uses anecdotal narratives to question whether the reading’s getting done. And again, from a historical perspective, I don’t see previous generations being all that smart either.

Detached media theory attempts to explain these sorts of divides as being connected to how media shapes our thought. ‘Literacy’ is a logocentric term — visual media dominated societies will have less ‘literacy’ in that specific technical term, but more ‘literacy’ in terms of understanding the medium they have access to. The popular argument ‘Yeah but textually literate people are also more media literate’ are countered with the Einstein quote But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree… (that hyperlink links to something interesting, take a look). Human beings are human beings are human beings — what is constantly changing is HOW they communicate and with WHAT medium. If it is ‘true’ that we’re not reading books, is it because we’re stupid or because we’re intelligent in a different way? Both the ‘if’ and the either/or statement in that question becomes ideology. This is an ideological debate, since the numbers won’t convince either way.

Edit: Haha, and that NASA fun fact link may be wrong, I’m looking into it but for now keeping it.

—PolarisDiB

Matt Parks

almost 2 years ago

Playing to audiences perceptual habits no doubt played a role, but bear in mind that it’s not simply a matter of linear progress. It’s largely a matter of technological adaptation. Many silent films are cut quite quickly—the Soviet silents are the obvious example, but also a number of the more impressionistic French silents and many of the shorts that Griffith made. The onset of sound seems to have curtailed fast cutting for a time and then cutting rates started to accelerate again as technology advanced (the sound Moviola was introduced in 1931 and edge numbering in 1932). Somewhat analogously, you see editing styles change somewhat as it became increasingly common for editors to switch from vertically-oriented Moviolas to the newer, horizontally-orientated Steenbeck flatbeds (circa the ’70s), and again when non-linear, digital editing systems started to replace linear, analog editing systems.

Polaris​DiB

almost 2 years ago

Eh, I’m calling out my own NASA statistic as bullshit.

Anyway, that is all. This is retreaded material for me, really. It’s funny how defensive I am about optimistic perspectives. Apparently I’d get along much better with people if I agreed that we’re all doomed and the world is a horrible place.

—PolarisDiB

Santino

almost 2 years ago

“I had a looong discussion with a friend about whether or not printed media are an inherently superior art form than tv. I just don’t understand how you could possibly think that they are!”

I don’t know that print is better than TV, that would assume that words are better than visuals (books are better than paintings, etc.). I’m more comfortable saying they are just different and that they are both valuable.

For instance, if we’re talking about news, yes an article in The New Yorker might be more in-depth than a two minute piece on Fox News. In this case, one is better than the other. But of course we’re not comparing apples to apples here. Instead, compare the article in The New Yorker against an hour discussion on Charlie Rose. In this case, both are equally valuable and both have pluses and minuses.

Polaris​DiB

almost 2 years ago

Actually hey, I just thought of a different way of looking at it, re: Matt’s ‘noisier’ link.

The world is getting noisier and lighter. When I was in high school I had major insomnia and spent a lot of time researching sleep, and learned about electronic light’s effect on our sleeping patterns. All sort of perturbing, humbling thoughts. BUT, it hasn’t killed us… at least not yet. We’ve adapted to our own lights. Bad or good thing? We’re still healthier, living longer, less infant mortality, et al so on but that really is not linked to lights only but wider technological and medical developments — the correlation is that those medical and technological developments that are making us healthier coexist with the developments that aren’t very healthy at all. But we seem to be adapting to them well.

So I think about my mother and the problem she has with noise. She just doesn’t like it, it overwhelms her. She can definitely complain about the effect increasing noise has on her own ability to contemplate. However, I think about things like white noise CDs and ‘background music’ and noise-canceling headphones and I realize the older/younger generational conversation about the whole overall social effect of noise seems to be boiling down to this:

“How can you think through all this noise?!”
“….What noise?”

Maybe the fact of the matter is that the modern world makes it harder for aging people to contemplate.

—PolarisDiB

Santino

almost 2 years ago

“I’m curious if there are statistics to back up the claim that films that received higher reviews made higher box office. I’d like to see that compared to today.”

I’ve mentioned this before but I’ll say it again because I think it fits here. Last year when the Ebert show was running old episodes of Siskel & Ebert, they ran an episode from the early 80s (I think it was 1980 or 1981) where they were recapping the best films of the year. Siskel made the point that for the first time, most of the highest grossing films of the year were not positively reviewed. He was shocked by this because in previous years, most of the films that audiences flocked to were good films.

Of course today we expect that the ten highest grossing films of the year will hover below 30% on Rotten Tomatoes but in the past, this would be unheard of.

(I think the best way you can judge this is to go on Box Office Mojo and pick a random year and look at the highest money makers. Now imagine if that film would even break the top twenty today. For instance, I’m thinking about a movie like All the President’s Men, which was in the top five for 1976. Can you imagine that today? A movie like that competing with Transformers and Twilight?).

“I might argue that being able to outsource trivial information from our brain to electronic devices, there’s more room in our brains to focus on building up skill sets”

I agree. There are certain advantages to having IMDB/Wikipedia/etc. readily at our finger tips. But there are obviously disadvantages too. The issue being aware of them. The problem with younger people is that they may not even be aware of the disadvantages, since this is all they know.

Jirin

almost 2 years ago

Ok. I’m not surprised people watch a lot of bad movies now, but I’m questioning more whether it really was different in the past. And it is true, 1980 corresponds with the rise in popularity of the VCR. That could be it, that after the VCR came out they had to please individual demographics rather than the entire family at once, so they started making stuff marketed specifically at young adults.

Maybe what I’ll do is if I have some free time I’ll go over the-movie-times and do the ( total gross / first weekend gross) experiment and see if anything changes.

Santino

almost 2 years ago

“Maybe the fact of the matter is that the modern world makes it harder for aging people to contemplate.”

haha!

I defer to the aging people to comment on that.

VOLUPTE NOIR

almost 2 years ago

“I personally get defensive because when people are pointing at ‘us’ saying, “You’re dumber than we used to be”

That is not at all what I was saying. This is not and should not be a generational thing. I know many young people who are very bright and of whom I am very proud. I also know many people of my generation who are as dumb as rocks (George W. Bush comes to mind.) It ‘s not at all about which generation is smarter. Totally irrelevant. I am merely making the point (for the umpteenth time) that the ongoing loss of literacy imperils culture and consequently future generations and that the overweening predominance of electronic devices in modern society has a great deal (but not everything) to do with that. I take your point about being intelligent in different ways. After all, some of my favorite artists didn’t read very much. That being said, to say that many don’t read books because they are intelligent in different ways strikes me as an evasion. It’s not stupid necessarily to not read, merely deeply unwise. Those who are intelligent in other ways should also read. Literacy forms the basis of virtually everything. Films (and television) require good scripts and technical manuals. As an educator, I perforce must believe in the perfectability of humankind. I WANT succeeding generations to be better and brighter than preceding ones, including mine. In addition, those who swim effortlessly in the electronic sea may be quite proficient at processing information and communicating. Buit what kind of information? What level of communication? Does texting, sexting, tweeting, etc. have much real value? What is happening to real thought and is that being fully communicated? I sincerely hope the answers are good, but I don’t see it.

Stu Witmer

almost 2 years ago

“Maybe the fact of the matter is that the modern world makes it harder for aging people to contemplate.”

As one of those “aging people”, I admit that I actually find I contemplate much easier than when I was younger. This, I expect, is due to so much more experience at contemplating. Like meditation, it gets “easier” the more you do it.