8. Ingmar Bergman
Longest Film: Fanny and Alexander (312 minutes)
The Swedish director is often called out by numerous filmmakers as their favorite director. Stanley Kubrick even wrote him a letter describing that Bergman’s vision of life has moved him more than any films. The performance in his films are done with great subtlety. He consistently put out wonderful films of life, death, mourning, and the human psyche.
The existential themes of his films are probing, exhausting them, reducing them to reveal the inner qualities of life. He paces his film to create tension, atmospheric moods, waiting for the right moment to break the silence.
The slow rhythm of his stories resemble music of the soul. He describes films as “Film as dream, film as music. No art passes our conscience in the way film does, and goes directly to our feelings, deep down into the dark rooms of our souls.”
His longest film, Fanny and Alexander comes in two versions: the five hour miniseries, and the three hour cut. The five hour version extends the development of characters, allowing them to breathe and move in cinematic space. A fantasy story in the form of an epic novel.
9. Jacques Rivette
Longest Film: Out 1: Noli Me Tangere (750 minutes)
The respected director from the French New Wave require intellectual patience, especially for his epic 750 minute film, Out 1. His films are mostly challenging yet greatly satisfying. His unconventional filmmaking method return beautiful films. He is known for using loose narratives often shifting from reality to imagination and back again.
Extending running time of his films allowed him to create multiple plots. His technique often includes improvisation as proof of Out 1, which gathered a group of artists and actors and improvise the story according to the characters they each constructed. Following this with Celine and Julie Go Boating which is in complete contrast with the former but still undeniably long at 192 minutes.
Rivette is also known for his films that are alternatives to his other films. Out 1 was edited down into 4 hours. Critic Richard Roud writes that this is “a mind-blowing experience, but one which, instead of taking one ‘out of this world’ as the expression has it, took one right smack into the world. Or into a world which one only dimly realised was there – always right there beneath the everyday world…the cinema will never be the same again, and nor will I.”
10. Lav Diaz
Longest Film: Evolution of a Filipino Family (593 minutes)
The Award-Winning Filipino director of epic movies that tackle films in the way of Hegel, has a cult following around the world. What with all his films never going under four hours. His latest, Norte: The End of History is his shortest running at four hours and ten minutes. His films are about how history affect the current social and political state of the country.
There is a great influence of Russian literature and Russian artistry in his works (his cinematic hero is Tarkovsky), that Norte is an analysis of Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment. Yet, his shots are reminiscent of Bela Tarr’s. He lets his camera stay for a few minutes in a fixed position, waiting for something to happen, and when it happens, he moves his camera like a pendulum, going back and forth, capturing the struggle of the character. The way his images linger and stays in the skin are beyond words.
In a particular scene in Norte, Joaquin says goodbye to his wife and children. During the whole action, the camera faces the back of the wife, Eliza, and their children. We do not see their faces. When the policeman takes him away to a faraway prison, we wait until he goes away, and once he was away, Diaz cuts and shows their faces.
The children are being comforted by Joaquin’s sister while Eliza looks blankly at where his husband had been. She stares and stares, the director never cuts for a long time, until a tear suddenly falls down her cheek. The audience waits as the character waits. Long gone, the feeling lingers. We become Eliza.
11. Michelangelo Antonioni
Longest Film: Chung Kuo, Cina (220 minutes)
The Italian master filmmaker has created some of the best films with L’Avventura, Blow Up, L’eclisse, and La Notte. The almost plotless stories reveal the emptiness of humans in the modern world. His themes are psychological, where the female are on focus.
The slow movement of his films reduces the subject into coldness. They are masterpieces of mood, images are contemplated, dialogue used sparingly, meanings are elusive. He has been cited by other famous directors like Tarkovsky, Kurosawa, and Kubrick as one of their favorites.
After Vittoria and Piero at the end of L’Eclisse agreed to meet again that evening, there is a huge amount of waiting as shown in the brilliantly put montage. He cuts into the different places in that area, and into faces of strangers waiting. He cuts them as if they are waiting for the two characters, and yet he never reveals them. They do not appear at all.
12. Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Longest Film: Winter Sleep (196 minutes)
Lately, the Cannes awarded the prestigious Palme d’Or to Nuri Bilge Ceylan for Winter Sleep. Like many directors of Slow Cinema, his films deal with existentialism, everyday life, and individual self. Taking influence in Antonioni, Tarkovsky, and Ozu, he makes great use of static and long takes. One interesting method that he uses is to never show the emotion of the character. He films them from behind. Ceylan’s films, like Sokurov are inspired by Anton Chekhov.
Another element of a Ceylan film is sound. The director pairs his slow build up with natural sounds: the sea, wind chimes, birds, whatever it is that is in the scene. This silence of dialogue can be seen in most of his films, letting the characters mourn on their own.
13. Peter Watkins
Longest Film: Resan (873 minutes)
There has been a wide confusion of what is longest cinematic film ever made in the internet. Some argue that is Fassbinder’s Berlin Alexanderplatz, a TV Film Miniseries, running up to 15 hours; while others state that it is Peter Watkins’ Resan. Eitherway, Peter Watkins made one hell of a long film. His films are largely political, adapting docudrama style in his works. Resan asks ordinary people about issues of military spending and how it affects society.
His pacifist stance and philosophy are seen in his films and other works, inspiring people like John Lennon towards the peace campaign. His 345 minute drama, La Commune is a product of research, directly involving into the project those that were casted. Filmmakers like Ingmar Bergman praises his films as “works of genius”.
14. Theo Angelopoulos
Longest Film: The Travelling Players (230 minutes)
Theo’s films are about time and history which explains the breadth of his films. He is considered as the icon of Slow Cinema. Like many of those he followed and who followed him, he used long takes in elegant contemplation of the subject. His study of personal and political identity was stretched in historical manner making them epics of the modern times, often mixing his stories with Greek myth.
The Travelling Players is modelled after the myth of Agamemnon. Slow moving but rewarding, his films are like epic poems of the Greek giants of yesterdays. Homeric in fashion, the rhythm in his films are hypnotic, divided into multiple trilogies like The Trilogy of History which involves The Travelling Players, The Trilogy of Silence, The Trilogy of Borders, and The Trilogy on Modern Greece.
15. Tsai Mingliang
Longest Film: Face (138 minutes), Stray Dogs (138 minutes)
Taipei-based Malaysian Chinese Tsai Ming-liang is considered one of the masters of slow cinema. His films are like monks walking in meditation, each footstep felt one after the other. Walker, his short film but one of his slowest, is deliberate as if time itself does not exist. Most of his shots are static or with little movement.
Dialogue is sparse they are almost silent films. Urban Alienation had been a constant theme in his films. The characters are disconnected with the world they are in. Emotions run abound, plots are taken away, this is Ming-liang’s cinema.
In Walker, Ming-Liang states: that it “was made as a conscious act of rebellion against the way cinema is perceived in today’s society. Commercial cinema has a certain number of requirements: there must be a narrative structure, a story, the actors must perform, and there must be some action and some music,”
At the end of Stray Dogs, he lets his two characters stare into space. The inaction might sound unbearable but it is Zen beauty. The tip is to breathe the moment.
Author Bio: Angelo is an aspiring Filipino director and a film enthusiast. He has directed six short films, two theater plays, and one award-winning music video. He spends his time watching movies, writing stories, and making movie reviews for his blog – Movies According to Paps.