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15 Great Filmmakers Whose Films Demand Your Patience

22 June 2014 | Features, People Lists | by Angelo Palpal-latoc

ingmar bergman films

There is group of directors that defy the labeling of genres. Their films are often meditative, observational, minimalistic, and favors the mood or the atmosphere of the story. Most uninitiated filmgoers label them as boring, but the importance of their subjects and their socio-economic or psychological themes elevate them from most filmmakers of yesterday and today.

This is Slow Cinema, films that demand your patience. They are not there because they are there to bore you, but to encourage you to experience the emotions of the characters, to put yourselves in their shoes, to live their life and see what they are seeing with your own eyes.

These are films that often go beyond 300 minutes. And when it doesn’t, it feels as if it is. Their long ASLs (Average shot length) are often what separates them from others, but these are not done arbitrarily. They are purposeful and oftentimes trance-inducing.

 

1. Andrei Tarkovsky

Andrei Tarkovsky

Longest Film: Andrei Rublev (205 minutes)

Images of nature and decay arise in Tarkovsky’s films. They are bound with metaphysical themes where human spirituality and life is presented through long takes. His symbolisms are personal and self-reflexive; autobiographical in nature. His slow moving cameras are meditative and on focus.

And for each scene, whether filled with strong dialogue or just wordless, careful composition heightens the brooding reflections of the character. Even the locations are character themselves. The seven films he has created are poems that are read carefully and slowly. Each word whispered in reverie as they approach the end of the poem.

There is one particular scene which shows all the things that defines what a Tarkovsky philosophy is. This is the “Inextinguishable Candle” scene in his film, Nostalghia, where the actor Oleg Yankovsky carries a candle, trying hard to protect the flame, onto the other side of the dry pool.

Filled with mud, moss, and fog, the pool embodies the dreariness of life as human beings go through them while someone else always try to keep them lit. The scene as Tarkovsky explains, shows an entire human life from birth to death. He shows this in one long take.

 

2. Alexandr Sokurov

Alexandr Sokurov

Longest Film: Faust (134 minutes)

Sokurov is often acknowledged as the duplicate image of his late friend Andrei Tarkovsky. His films are meditative, spiritual, metaphysical, and favors the long shot. His most famous film, Russian Ark, is a majestic 90-minute journey of Russian history, politics, art, and culture filmed in one long take. Yes, the film is one long take.

While being compared mostly with Tarkovsky, his films are about the struggles of life that cannot be liberated. They are oppressive. Highly influenced by literary figures such as Chekhov and Tolstoy, his films are grounded deeply in Russian roots.

Silence is also a feature in Sokurov’s films. His masterpiece, Mother and Son, puts the camera in place and sparely cuts his shots. One particular scene is when The Son, carrying his Mother, gets off the road and into tall grass, where the shot is cut. In the grass, we hold this frame of gaze as he settles down, looks at his motionless mother for a long time then slowly turns.

Suddenly her eyelids move and she stirs. The son begins to recount one memory about her mother. The silence increases this slowness, only hearing nature and his breathing, and for a while think that she is dead.

 

3. Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Apichatpong Weerasetha

Longest Film: Blissfully Yours and Tropical Malady (Both 125 minutes)

The Thai, Cannes Palme D’Or winner for Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s films are structurally unconventional. His films are personal and often tackle dreams, sexuality, nature, and the outside perspective of Westerners of Asia. Often, they are described as slow and weird.

The effect of his film’s win (despite its slow progression) of the prestigious Palme D’Or ushered the trend of the next winners (Note: The Tree of Life, Amour, Blue is the Warmest Color, Winter Sleep).

Joe, as he is called because of his long name, is also interested in time. In one interview he states:

“Time is very interesting to me. Because I’m really trying to capture time, mostly in the past, and work it out in the present. For example, when you have the scene in Blissfully Yours where they go to the picnic and it takes so long—the film was made in 2002, and when I watched it in 2005 or 2006, I thought, “Wow, my time back then, I was really patient.” Because I take the long duration for each gesture. And I realized my time has changed. The rhythm inside has changed. Because when I was younger, I didn’t feel that those shots were long, that’s why I put them in. But then recently, in 2012, I watched Blissfully Yours again and the cut is just right. It’s not long at all. So that means that our timings, it’s always changing.”

 

4. Bela Tarr

Bela Tarr

Longest Film: Satantango (450 minutes)

The critically acclaimed and cult favorite, Bela Tarr is one of the most famous figures of Slow Cinema. Notorious for his Anti-Hollywood, Anti-establishment demeanor, his strength lies in his minimalistic, no-nonsense approach in filmmaking captures the raw reality of everyday life.

With hyperrealistic shots and expertly choreographed movement, his films often show life in a small town or a rural town. In defense of his simple storied but long films, especially The Turin Horse, he says that he does not want to show the story, he wanted to show the man’s life.

The 450 minute Satantango, his longest film, consists of only 150 shots, with an average shot length of 10-11 minutes. This gives the audience time to experience the whole setting, immersing them to what the characters are doing, and what background they have. In his last film, The Turin Horse, the camera slowly follows the character and the horse in long shots, moving like a pendulum, going back and forth.

Sometimes Tarr would put his camera in front of the character and the horse, and it captures their struggle. Tarr is proof that minimalistic but purposeful directorial decisions can effectively evoke the right emotion shown in the action.

 

5. Cristian Mungiu

Christian Mungiu

Longest Film: Beyond the Hills (155 minutes)

The Romanian award-winning director is a filmmaker of realism. Taking cue from past directors like neo-realist Vittorio de Sica, he takes very important and timely themes and disciplines himself to show real emotions. His slow burner abortion drama 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days is often comes up on lists of 21st Century film masterpieces.

The dynamic element of mood shows experiences in its bare emotion. His films’ pace are slow and lingering. Routines are shown as it is, never taking them as unimportant.

In the dinner scene of 4 Months, the camera is fixed putting Otilia dead center of the frame. Around her are her boyfriend’s family, she looks as if they are crowding at her. The scene is taken in a single long shot.

There is look in Otilia that looks as if she is hiding something. Around her, everyone is happy. Putting her in the center feels as if she is trapped in the middle, waiting for something to burst. That long take suggest that this experience is a terrifying her. As if she is longing to get out of there but can’t still.

 

6. Corneliu Porumboiu

Corneliu Porumboiu

Longest Film: Police Adjective (115 minutes)

Another Romanian director is Corneliu Porumboiu, known for his 2006 feature, 12:08 East of Bucharest and his follow-up, Police Adjective. His films tackle on crises, whether it be the moral questionings of Cristi in Police, or crisis of faith in his film, When Evening Falls on Bucharest or Metabolism. The slowness of his films’ pacing is also highlighted by long takes, but he counters this with humor.

For example, in 12:08, he treats the historical and revolutionary theme with humor. In it, the characters act like children rather than what they call themselves – heroes of the modern time. The slow pace becomes humor itself, as the silence gives of an uncomfortable awkwardness between his characters.

 

7. Yasujiro Ozu

Yasujiro Ozu

Longest Film: Early Spring (144 minutes)

The most Japanese of all Japanese filmmakers is Ozu. His films carry a Zen like grace and quality that the slowness is itself a character in his films. His films are about ordinary routines in life that they are like nature itself. But these ordinary routines are so detailed and precise that they are almost real to touch. His camera compositions give a three dimensional appearance that they are often used by other filmmakers. His characters, the props, the surroundings are balanced that they look so organized.

The critic, Paul Schrader, described Ozu’s films as transcendental, where we can see the beauty, full of happiness and tragedy, of the ordinary human life. In Tokyo Monogatari, he shows the story of two old people who visit their children and grandchildren in Tokyo.

In their hometown, they quietly proceed with everyday work, the slowness emphasize the simplicity and the austerity of their work. In Tokyo, the business of the city affects their own children that they oftentimes are forgotten or left alone. The contrasting and balanced power of the things Ozu puts on frame are stories themselves.

 

 

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  • Melville Baz

    Sergio Leone ?

    • Vinashak

      cmon he made entertaining westerns

      • Benas Bačanskas

        “Once Upon a Time in the West” is really slow.

    • Iam_Spartacus

      Just what I was going to suggest. 229 min. of Once Upon a Time in America definitely tests your patience, and I love it.

    • Jérôme Blanchet

      Leone is a genius, but he does not belong to Slow Cinema, his cinema as nothing to do with minimalisme

    • Jérôme Blanchet

      You don’t get the difference between slow cinema and a long film.

  • Luther Blissett

    ugh, another sausage party?

    • whoooooooooooo

      what would be your constructive suggestion? other than, obviously – ugh?

  • Ted Wolf

    great list and there are many directors with whom patience pays off. I always felt 2001 is a film that demanded patience, and Godards Weekend.

    • F S

      The list is referring to auteurs whose whole filmography is based on this “absence of action”.

  • Matt Langdon

    Good list, but I would take out Ingmar Bergman and replace him with Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien, whose films have been a rigorous test for a long time. Films such as Puppetmaster, Flowers of Shanghai, Three Times and A City of Sadness.

    • RockyJohan

      I would put Bergman back in and Then i would replace you with a dead person.

    • Klaus Dannick

      I never considered Bergman’s films to be slowly-paced or typically lengthy. Bergman’s work does demand things from his audience, but patience is not one of those things.

  • Ahmad J. Farhat

    The title should read: 15 great filmmakers.

  • Jérôme Blanchet

    This is a great list, but I believe this list could be call, 15 great filmmakers who test your level of knowledge about cinema. The point is that, the more you know about cinema, the more slow cinema become entertaining, and therefore, does not demand patience.

    • Ankur Deb

      That’s stupid. Cinema is not for film makers to pat their own backs. It’s for the people.
      Art is nothing without culture and society.
      The title is very appropriate.

      • Jérôme Blanchet

        My gosh, another of those who think that cinema is there only to tell stories, reflect culture and society.

        You put the concept of art in a very little box like if art could be explain rationally with a mathematical formula. Art does not depend of society and culture, art need to go beyond of that, art need to surprise the viewer. Art need to give something different from what we already know. Culture and society are related to human being. but there is more in the universe.

        Cinema is not for the people. The best way to learn about cinema is to impose the vision of legendary filmmakers on you. Don’t try to control the movie, let the movie take control on you. If the filmmaker propose slow sequences, it is because there is something magical to see.

        • Ish

          Looks like a lesson on Morality of arts..

        • Ankur Deb

          I never claimed any of what you just assumed.
          I never said to control the movie, I never said it should reflect culture and society.
          I just said that it really becomes art when we all come together to call it art.
          For example, consider we humans suddenly disappear from earth and our things are intact.
          What is the thing that once Kubrick made?
          Art? No….
          It’s pure garbage since it has no effects on anything other than humans…
          Art is dependent on people and always will be….
          You might deny it since you think rest of humanity is as stupid as a stick but one should remember this….
          Art came into existence because of the evolutionary need of human and maybe someday it will disappear because of it.

          • Ankur Deb

            Do you think that everyone you meet is this stupid or was I especially looked like an idiot that you assumed a shit lot of things?

          • Guest

            I expect people to be extremely intelligent so I can learn and growth as much as possible from them. Between you and me, the only one here who make use of the word (stupid) is you. Out of your 3 comments, you used the word 3 time. What a perfect ratio…

          • Jérôme Blanchet

            The human art will be fascinating to an alien, just like the skeleton of a dinosaur is fascinating for scientists.

          • Ankur Deb

            What makes you think that ‘Aliens'(if they ever visited earth that is) will be more intelligent than humans and moreover will appreciate the thing that used to be called ‘Art’ by some non-existent species?

            So, might I suggest that ‘Aliens appreciating art made by humans’ is a long shot?

            You might think I don’t appreciate art but that would be very wrong. I am trying to be an artist myself.

            I am just saying it’s meant for humans(for now at least) and not considering audience into the equation is an arrogant thing to do.

            I find it extremely hard to believe that you ‘expect people to be extremely intelligent’ but none the less, it’s okay. It’s good to be skeptical and very stupid of anyone not be, like I am.

            And none of the ‘Stupid’s were meant for you. It were mostly for me and one time maybe for the argument you made.

          • Jérôme Blanchet

            If I thought you have no appreciation for art I would not spend time talking to you. I do all of this conversation only for one thing, constructive thinking, I challenged you and you challenged me and I like the way it is going. So I invite you to join my facebook, please send me a request for frienship. I play Curling on my photo profile. https://www.facebook.com/jerome.blanchet1

          • Ankur Deb

            I sent the request. I didn’t knew about Curling at all until now.
            I think you are my type of guy.
            I absorb from you and you absorb from me and we both learn new things. No need to compete.
            After all, it is all about sharing.(but not my food, I never share my food. Maybe snacks.)

  • F S

    Jim Jarmusch is definitely missing here. He is kind of an outsider of slow cinema – but nevertheless a true master.

  • J. Cal Davenport

    Satantango: 450 minute movie with 150 shots? That’s an average shot length of 3 minutes, not 10-11. in the latter case, the movie would be between 1500 and 1650 minutes.

  • Fernando Arenas

    Interesting selection. Tsai Ming Liang has been very challenging to me. So has Antonioni.

  • Silvester Phua

    Terence Malick?

  • Youeb Dachraoui

    Francis F. Coppola ? Terrence Malick ?

    • Benas Bačanskas

      No.

  • Unkle Amon

    Malick is missing, tho he is not that great imo. Nice list.

  • Mr.Spooky

    The only films that try one’s patience are boring films. Any interesting film is a joy to watch at any length.
    Regarding this list were is Hans-Jürgen Syberberg, Erich von Stroheim and Abel Gance?

  • guest 92

    pedro costa and chantal ackerman

  • Richard McLin

    What about Warner Fassbinder. Great director and his Opus “Berlin Alexanderplatz” is a little over 15 hours.

  • Brian Lussier

    Kubrick should be here. How many times have I heard the comment that 2001 and The Shining are more than five hours long, while neither of them reach 2 1/2. And these people actually argue that the films really are that length, until I prove it to them. Terrence Malick might have also deserved it.

    • Jérôme Blanchet

      Kubrick should not be here

  • Sunčica Fradelić

    Most of this films don’t demand my patience, but stupidity does.

  • Cinema Phenomenology

    Fassbinder, Manoel de Oliveira, Malick, Jarmusch, Dardenne Bros, Reygadas, Wenders

  • José Abel Salazar Lizárraga

    Great list man. I thought I was going to be dissapointed. But oh, man what a cool surprise. Thank you.

  • John Davidsson

    Ki-duk Kim

  • Rich G

    Sorry but the whole mentality of the article is apologising for intelligence and thought. By stating “Most uninitiated filmgoers label them as boring” you are excusing cretins. What you mean is moronic narrow idiots cannot comprehend these films meaning.
    This is not slow cinema. It is what it is. Dense philosophical analysis of the human condition and the big questions like the meaning of life and existence. There is nothing slow about Tarkovsky’s cinema. It’s pace is relevant to its content. Stop excusing intellectualism for the sake of cretins. This whole article sounds like it us apologising for intellectualism. Don’t apologise embrace it and respect it. And by doing so respect intelligent cinema!

  • Camilo Caballero

    Haneke?

  • Klaus Dannick

    Peter Greenaway’s “Prospero’s Books” was mind-numbing. Not particularly long, but definitely a test of my patience.

  • Richard Anderson

    I sense more than a little pretension with some of these film-makers.

  • Ahmed

    David Lynch?

  • Hariharan Acharya

    Satyajit Ray?