Courses / Undergraduate

Fall 2024

  • Special Topics in Film – Slow Cinema

    170 001 | CCN: 24356

    Dolores McElroy

    Location: Dwinelle 188

    Date and Time: M, W 3:30pm - 4:59pm

    4 Units

    In this course, we will consider how the concept of “slowness” can be a way of comprehending contemporary reality. Much has been written about how film as a medium shaped the sensorium of the modern spectator with the shock of motion and the aesthetics of astonishment, both reproducing and habituating these new viewers to the sensations of modern life. Now that the once-promising tempo of early 20th century modernity (linked to an equally optimistic view of technological promise and progress) has given way to the many forms of economic, social, and environmental devastation that characterize our contemporary moment––a moment in which technology is omnipresent and regulates our lives in ever more granular ways–– can cinema (the very medium that got us here in the first place) actually help us to slow down enough to begin to comprehend our current reality?

    The course will focus on a group of films made in the last 20 years or so that can loosely be characterized as “slow cinema.” What these films have in common is a de-emphasis on narrative, a meditative feel, and a tendency to use shots that are long in duration. As we view the films, we will ask, What are the experiences and consequences of slowing down?” What does it mean to resist the capitalist and heterosexist imperative to be “productive?” Can we avoid nostalgia for an (imagined) agrarian past, a Lost Eden, and come to revalue slowness not as a way to turn back the clock, but to reimagine the future? We will consider how slowing down reveals the traces of history that exist all around us and are often uncomprehended in the speed of everyday life; how slowing down reveals processes of film spectatorship and what we really do when we say we are “watching” a film; how slowing down forces us to confront the sentience of other beings, including plants and animals (and even rocks and water); and how slowing down can reveal the revolutionary potential that may be latent in sleep and dreams. In addition to thinking of “slowness” through cinema, students will also focus on developing their own practices of slowness and attention.