Vermont Public is independent, community-supported media, serving Vermont with trusted, relevant and essential information. We share stories that bring people together, from every corner of our region. New to Vermont Public? Start here.

© 2024 Vermont Public | 365 Troy Ave. Colchester, VT 05446

Public Files:

For assistance accessing our public files, please contact or call 802-655-9451.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

VPR's coverage of arts and culture in the region.

Nadworny: Slow Movies

There’s been a spate of articles recently discussing the differences between reading books, a slow activity, and watching movies or going online, fast activities. While accurate, it feels like a very old discussion, trying to prove the supremacy of one medium over another -- when in fact we now face the slow vs. fast challenge in all mediums.

Recently I’ve started introducing my kids to Hitchcock movies. We began with two of my favorites: Psycho and Rear Window. Psycho is, well, psycho. In Rear Window the plot is almost secondary to the enjoyment of watching James Stewart and Grace Kelly doing anything onscreen. But I digress.

What struck me watching both of those movies was the pace. It was slow, far slower than the movies or TV shows we watch today. It was interesting watching how the kids reacted. In the beginning I could see them getting a little restless. But as the stories unfolded, the slowness of the pace increased their anticipation almost to the bursting point. Not being used to that timing, the suspense was literally killing them. I never remembered Psycho being slow, but it takes it’s time in telling the story. Then Hitchcock punctuates the rhythm with things like the infamous shower scene.

Rear Window was even slower. It’s a story about a guy sitting in his apartment watching his neighbors. Yet, my kids loved both of those movies. They were very aware of the speed of the stories, or lack thereof, but they wanted to see more.

In between those two movies, we went to see the second installment of The Hobbit in a movie theater. That film has relentless, non-stop action. J.R.R. Tolkien wrote slow stories. But you wouldn’t know that from watching the movie. Peter Jackson, the director, is achieving the oxymoronic goal of stretching one book into three movies and then filling it with a bunch of action that doesn’t exist in the book! It has one speed: fast, with little or no time for real story or character development.

I found myself wondering how Hitchcock might have treated Tolkien after watching the Hobbit part 2. And I thanked my stars that Peter Jackson never directed any of the Harry Potter series: we’d probably still be only in the middle of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire!

Movies, books and even the Internet can be slow or fast. But a good story sets its own pace in the telling of it. The idea that everything needs to be fast to make people pay attention seems more and more like a shortcut for NOT telling a good story. Action-packed gimmicks will never replace a compelling narrative. Our brains need time to digest a story and create our own pictures and ideas of what might happen next. And allowing that to happen is maybe the very best part.

Rich Nadworny is a designer who resides in Burlington and Stockholm.
Latest Stories