Tuesday, March 25, 2003
Philip Hensher on cinematic boredom.
The list of agonisingly boring film directors is strangely close to a serious list of the greatest practitioners of the art. Tarkovsky, Fellini, Bergman, Antonioni, Godard, Wenders, Fassbinder, Rivette; and then there are those, like Powell and Pressburger, who are only really good when they are bold enough to be boring. It shouldn't be surprising; after all, everyone secretly knows that half the great writers in English, from Langland to Henry James, are as boring as Belgium. The truth is that boredom, dropping from The Faerie Queene or Tarkovsky's Solaris like the gentle rain from heaven, is an important and powerful part of the works' designs on the audience.
The two absolutely sincere, unfakable responses to a work of art are, I think, boredom and embarrassment. You can pretend to be amused; you can pretend to be moved; and even if your response is genuine, there's an element of consent involved. Boredom and embarrassment, on the other hand, are so powerful because they are completely involuntary, absolutely sincere aesthetic responses, which no one would choose to have.