The Effects of Music and Dialogue

Yesterday’s screening of Apichatpong’s Mekong Hotel in Glasgow made it obvious to me how problematic the term Slow Cinema is.

The name Apichatpong Weerasethakul appears almost everywhere you look for something written on Slow Cinema. His work is a trademark. Mekong Hotel, however, makes me wonder to what extent films are slow, and whether it wouldn’t be appropriate to narrow the term Slow Cinema to a more specific, cohesive and conclusive part of slow film (and I suggest here, for instance, the slow films that bear similarities to paintings).

Mekong Hotel is slow. Yet, compared to other films by Weerasethakul, and to other slow films in general, his latest short is fairly quick. The reason for this is his slightly different style.

Remember, remember – Michel Chion, and his vococentrism of film. Just like human beings, films are vococentric, that means their focus lies on speech as our ears react faster to external stimuli than our eyes do. I have argued that his point is a clue as to why slow films appear to be slow. They lack dialogue. Our ears are deprived of information, and have to pass on the command to our eyes. We need to read the film with our eyes, which is a much slower process.

Mekong Hotel features a lot of dialogue. There are lengthy passages, which feature two or three characters in conversation. In addition, the film contains a guitar tune which accompanies almost every scene. The ongoing tune in the background keeps feeding our ears with information. Our eyes don’t have to do much. Our ears do the job. I actually blocked my ears for a little while during the screening. The film appeared so much slower!

Both dialogue and music make films appear more time-based, more rhythmic. As soon as this is the case, the effect and perception of slowness is greatly reduced. My avenue towards (the Fine Art of) Slow Cinema as being similar to static arts in terms of their lack of kinetic objects, their framing, their frame composition, and their lack of dialogue and music, is going to address this problem in a bit more detail. But I would like to stress once again that the perception of slowness stems from more than only long-takes and the depiction of mundane every-day activities of characters. Hence the term needs adjustment. And Mekong Hotel serves as a great example for doing exactly this.

Liked it? Take a second to support Nadin Mai on Patreon!

7 Comments

  1. […] I have written previously on the apparent aesthetic shifts in Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s films. His latest short Mekong Hotel didn’t have the same look nor the same feel compared to his […]

  2. […] Reygadas’ special effects in Post Tenebras Lux is exemplary here. I have also mentioned in an earlier post that Apichatpong’s Mekong Hotel questions a few characteristics as well by including more […]

  3. […] this film would make a stunning photographic album of wonderful landscape images (I spoke about the effects of music in an earlier […]

  4. […] the film was boring. It was just so soothing… It was similar with Apichatpong’s Mekong Hotel. While the aesthetics differed greatly from Alonso’s film, the ongoing guitar music made the […]

  5. […] is a striking experience because of its sound. Earlier this year, I wrote about the effects of music and dialogue on the perceived speed of films. I used the context of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Mekong […]

  6. […] This combination of techniques greatly enriches the viewing experience. A while ago, I wrote about the effects of music and dialogue on our perception of slowness and came to the conclusion that both speed up the film. For some […]

  7. It’s exhausting to seek out educated people on this
    subject, but you sound like you recognize what you’re
    talking about! Thanks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *