I should have watched Raya Martin’s films much earlier. But better late than never. Not all of his films feel quite as slow as his feature debut, which he made at the young age of only 21 in 2005. A genius, if you ask me. A thought-provoking, powerful piece.
I’ve chosen this work mainly because of its aesthetics. I can connect it to earlier remarks of mine about the roots of Slow Cinema. Martin’s A Short Film… was shot in the style of a 1920s film. It’s in black-and-white. The frame edges are blurred. There is no dialogue. Instead title cards give us an indication of where the story is heading. The film is (therefore) accompanied by music only. Even the costumes of the characters look timely. You would never believe that this film was made in 2005 if you didn’t read about it on IMDB.
To be fair, the film starts off in colour. Well, it starts of in black-and-white, but after two scenes, we switch to colour. We’re inside a house, a woman (a daughter?) can’t sleep, and wants to hear a story. The long-takes are wonderful here. There is very little light in the frame, and we can barely decipher what we really see or simply make up. A man begins to tell a story, a metaphorical story about his country and the suffering it is burdened with. The man cries. We can gather that he is deeply moved by the state of his country.
Then we switch to black-and-white, and the 1920s film type. I don’t intend to go into detail about the content of the film. I think it is worth watching, and I’d hate to give it all away (which is a real struggle in general with slow films). I find the link to early silent films more interesting for now. The film is not slow because it is Slow Cinema. It is slow because it’s a black-and-white silent film. I’m aware that there had been silent films which were rather fast, but even this “fast” is a lot slower than today’s films. I mentioned the link to early cinema history somewhere already, and Martin’s film demonstrated this perfectly.
Slow Cinema is often seen in relation to neo-realism. It is also seen as a response to 9/11. But when I studied Diaz’s films in a bit more detail it became rather obvious that the actual roots are in early silent film. Martin’s A Short film… is the strongest proof of that. Well, technically, I wouldn’t even call his film a slow film, precisely because it reminds me of the early days of cinema, and we don’t call these films slow. We actually call them classics.
So Martin’s film brought up the never-ending debate again as to how suitable the term Slow Cinema is. It reminds me of stereotyping: just give a group of people (or films) a label that has a grain of truth, but without ever going into the details about their roots, their aesthetics, contents, etc
Back to square one.