Saturday, January 7, 2012

Everything changes

I was thinking about the film post I last wrote, and went back to look at previous top 10 lists I've done. As a film reviewer, I do one every year, and have done for many years. What really struck me, was how different films have become, even in just 10 years.

Magnolia was one of my top 10 films the year it came out. This film would never be made today. Why? It's too slow paced. An hour into its running time, you're still being introduced to the characters and the main action hasn't happened yet, or even really hinted at. Even the scenes and shots are slower. These days scenes are kept very short, and the camera moves around within it, or the editor cuts between characters frequently to keep things moving and dynamic.

It's like film makers are afraid of stillness, of taking their time to let things unfold. Is this a reaction to the perception that people have shorter attentions spans these days, or has this frenetic film making style been part of the cause?

It's the same in books. When you read the classics, there are often large passages of description, or even whole chapters outlining the politics and historical background of the time (Les Miserables, War and Peace). This wouldn't fly in a modern book. The history and description needs to be squeezed in amidst the action driving the story forward so the reader won't get bored.

I wonder if all of this is just making people more impatient. How long will it be before attention spans have dropped to a fraction of a second, and we don't even get a page to grab their interest? A single scene?


  1. It's pretty disconcerting. I read about that all the time in writing tutorials, about the importance of pacing and keeping the story moving forward. It's also the way I write. I've had to cut out a lot of what I thought were some pretty good scenes, but since they were too "slow" for what sells in modern YA fiction, I had to get rid of them.

  2. I think maybe readers (and film viewers) are being shortchanged in some ways. A little introspection and taking time to really explore something is not a bad thing...