Clock, Watches and The Passage of Time in Movies

MARCLAY-1-articleLargeThis is from a review of a fascinating film montage, The Clock, that looks at the passage of time in life and in movies.  It is a wonderful article about an amazing film which is excerpted only in part here:

That timepieces crop up everywhere in movies is no surprise: Film was the first visual art form to capture and package time, and every movie is an elaborate manipulation of time. Time is the form and content, and, above all, the material. Moviemakers have developed endless devices to make us aware of time’s passage in their films, and to hold us in thrall, or suspense, within that artificial time — while we forget about the real kind outside the theater.
Central to the power of “The Clock” is its strict adherence to real time and its manic compression of movie time. When a clock on the screen reads 11:15 in the morning, it does so at exactly 11:15 in the morning Eastern Standard Time. The same for 11:15 in the evening, as can be experienced on weekends, when the gallery stays open and runs the piece continuously from 10 a.m. Friday to 6 p.m. Saturday. Otherwise it tells time during regular gallery hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
But while “The Clock” is accurately parsing real time, movie time goes nuts, rushing past in an exhilarating, surprisingly addictive flood. A door opened in one movie leads into another movie. Questions asked in one will be answered in the next or the next after that.
And there are, of course, clocks galore. This includes clocks of the wall, mantel, grandfather and bedside-table variety; clocks on steeples, towers, dashboards and bombs; and clocks in train stations, shop windows and spaceships as well as the occasional hourglass and sundial. And then there are watches, which are smashed, pawned, handed down from father to son, and used as weapons. (All the James Bonds are here.) They slide down the wrists of murder victims, turn up at crime scenes and even provide forensic evidence.
It is hard to say why this panoply of timepieces and plot twists is so gripping, but it is. After watching “The Clock” from around 7:30 p.m. last Friday to past midnight, I dragged myself away, despite the desire to stay and see exactly how the time would be told, how different hours would be rung in.

That timepieces crop up everywhere in movies is no surprise: Film was the first visual art form to capture and package time, and every movie is an elaborate manipulation of time. Time is the form and content, and, above all, the material. Moviemakers have developed endless devices to make us aware of time’s passage in their films, and to hold us in thrall, or suspense, within that artificial time — while we forget about the real kind outside the theater.

Central to the power of “The Clock” is its strict adherence to real time and its manic compression of movie time. When a clock on the screen reads 11:15 in the morning, it does so at exactly 11:15 in the morning Eastern Standard Time. The same for 11:15 in the evening, as can be experienced on weekends, when the gallery stays open and runs the piece continuously from 10 a.m. Friday to 6 p.m. Saturday. Otherwise it tells time during regular gallery hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

But while “The Clock” is accurately parsing real time, movie time goes nuts, rushing past in an exhilarating, surprisingly addictive flood. A door opened in one movie leads into another movie. Questions asked in one will be answered in the next or the next after that.

And there are, of course, clocks galore. This includes clocks of the wall, mantel, grandfather and bedside-table variety; clocks on steeples, towers, dashboards and bombs; and clocks in train stations, shop windows and spaceships as well as the occasional hourglass and sundial. And then there are watches, which are smashed, pawned, handed down from father to son, and used as weapons. (All the James Bonds are here.) They slide down the wrists of murder victims, turn up at crime scenes and even provide forensic evidence.

It is hard to say why this panoply of timepieces and plot twists is so gripping, but it is. After watching “The Clock” from around 7:30 p.m. last Friday to past midnight, I dragged myself away, despite the desire to stay and see exactly how the time would be told, how different hours would be rung in.

Read the whole article here– it’s quite interesting.  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/04/arts/design/04marclay.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=clock%20+%20film&st=cse

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