I recently watched a couple of films that might be considered “meditative”: Into Great Silence and Le Quattro Volte. The pacing of both of these films is very deliberate. The shots linger, they let you take in all sorts of details, they let you think about what you’re seeing. There is very little dialog. They ask you to look at the images the way you look at a painting.
There are dangers to making a meditative film. First, people read “meditative” and they think SLOOOOooooowwwww. And certainly the audience is going to be small, a subset of the already small documentary audience (but what they lack in numbers they make up for in passion). And there’s no middle ground when you make a meditative film, you commit to it wholeheartedly and set the tone from the beginning or else you’re sunk.
As I contemplate the editing of A Life’s Work I am constantly considering the pace. I don’t think it should be super meditative, though I think the shots are there, but I don’t want it to be a quickly paced TV documentary either. I am sure this will be a frequent topic of discussion with the editor.
A thought I keep coming back to: editing it kind of the opposite of Koyaanisqatsi (watch it for free here). I wouldn’t begin with the fever pitch, sped up footage that Koyaanisqatsi ends on, but I’d start off sort of conventionally and gradually, imperceptibly lengthen the shots so that by the end of the film the viewer has been weened away from the three second shots we are all used to and brought into lengthier shots. Perhaps it will result in a mindful, refreshing, calming experience. Meditative, one might say.
What do you think?