A Dreamer Walking

Time and Attention

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on May 22, 2011

The other day I arranged a movie night. We were going to sit down and enjoy one of last years best movies, The King’s Speech. The audience was mostly young men about my age, ranging from 18 to 21. There were two parents watching the movie for their second time, as well. I was quite excited to show this movie to my friends. I am a big fan of the director Tom Hooper and think the movie rightly deserved the academy award for Best Picture in this years Oscars. This was actually my third time watching the movie.

The movie was being presented on Blu Ray high definition on a huge widescreen TV with surround sound, to give us the “ultimate viewing experience”. However, less then a minute into the movie I heard a little “buzzzz” sound right next to me. Then within seconds I heard a second “buzzzz” on the other side of me. Then came a “buzzzz” below me. I looked around and too my amazement I saw three of my friends answering text messages. “You guys are going to miss the crucial part of the scene”, I thought to myself. It was right at the moment where the main character of the movie, Albert the Duke of York, was standing in the stair case by a gray colorless wall with the close up of the speech in his hand and a terrified expression on his face. I knew if my friends did not see the lack of confidence the Duke was expressing while waiting to give the speech, they would not understand his stuttering while giving the speech a few seconds later. My friends were also missing the little gesture the Duchess of York was giving her husband when reluctantly letting him go. If you were paying attention to the film you could easily see this subtle affection and distress the Duchess had for her husband’s predicament. We can see how desperately she was trying to give him confidence while whispering in his ear, “It’s time”. I don’t even know if my friends saw the huge machines set up in order to broadcast the speech to the world. They actually might be amazed to see the texts they were constructing to communicate to someone miles away took whole room fulls of equipment less then a hundred years ago in 1925.

I was able to shake off the frustration of my friends missing some of the small details I considered quite important at the beginning of the films because I thought those text messages might have been pretty important. My friends might have felt the need to tell their texting friends they were watching a movie, rather then be rude and just ignore them. However, the texts didn’t stop. Through out the film my friends seemed to be just as interested in texting as they were interested in the movie.

My friends were not even giving themselves the chance to be taken by the film. They didn’t allow themselves to see the true effect the speech therapist in the movie had with the Duke. And how exactly he gave him confidence to step up and become a King. What ended up happening that night was one of my texting friends bailed out half way through because he said he was so tired he couldn’t track the film and my two other texting friends said they could not relate very well to the characters or story. I thought, “How did they expect to relate with the characters or story? They had not even given them a chance to effect them”.

School teachers are not trying to just be mean when they tell you to put your cellphones away when they are giving lectures. The reasons why we are usually not allowed to use cellphones while listening to a lecture, at the dinner table, in a meeting, or when we are in a movie theater is because they take our, and usually the people around us, attention away. Filmmakers literally spend hundreds and hundreds of hours working on each minute of film we see in the movies. They have not spent so much time and effort working on the film only for us to pay attention to the bare minimum. Every detail matters, especially with an academy award film like The King’s Speech. The movie demands our attention if we want to truly get anything out of it. The same goes with any well made film, they require the audience to participate.

We live in the information age. The greatest concern we should have is getting too overwhelmed with information. If we are researching something we just need to type in the subject on Google and immediately we are presented with dozens of articles on the subject. The problem with this overwhelming resource of information is we tend to skim the articles because we are too much in a hurry to get to the next one. If we wanted to we could be having three conversations at once, one through texting on the cellphone, one face to face, and one on the computer. The problem is when we try to have three conversations at once we are not focused on any of them.

The reasons why films continuously get quicker paced and are full of “in your face” visual effects is because studio executives don’t think we can appreciate the quite moments in film anymore. The reason why more and more movies are being made with poor plot lines and shallow characters is because the studio executives know those kind of stories are easier to be made and they think we the audience do not really care. Sadly, these studio heads are far too close to being right, most of us do not care.

The people who payed the most attention to The King’s Speech were the parents who had already watched the film. My generation for the most part seems to not care about these stories which have beautiful character depth and thought provoking story lines, because they don’t have enough action or are too full of duologue. The other night was just one example of an attitude which is becoming much more common. We simply do not care. I would not be mad if my friends did not like the movie if they had been paying attention to it. In fact, their reason I am sure would have helped me develop a stronger opinion on the movie. What frustrates and saddens me is the lack of commitment my friends were willing to give the film. My generation in general has become satisfied with quantity over quality. We rather not have anything go too deep and be too thought provoking because we don’t have time to give any one thing our complete attention.

The studio executives do not care nearly as much about making quality pictures because we have shown we are okay with mediocre. The audience sets the standard towards the kind of entertainment we receive. With the kind of mindset my generation has we are going to miss out on quite a few beautiful things. We can’t see the beauty in a masterful piece of art unless we spend time studying it. We can not understand the beauty in the people around us unless we spend time getting to know them. The same concept applies to movies.

One of my friends who was texting throughout the film said he couldn’t relate to the King’s speech impediment because communication has never been a problem for him. I say that is all the more reason for my friend to pay attention. All you need to know to understand Albert’s problem is in the movie. Film can be a way to experience the world and understand it’s differing views. The medium of film has the potential to reveal truths about this world and who we are that we did not even know were there. It is true films like The King’s Speech are sources of entertainment. But, the best kind of entertainment is the kind that allows us to grow. The films which allow us to grow only require from us an hour or two of our time and attention. I beg you to give it……. for both our sake.

One Response

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  1. minnow said, on May 22, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    I understand your frustration. I also understand the distraction effect when others are texting while you are watching something or listening to something with them. But like you, I too am mostly saddened by the lack of connection that texting while with other people causes. Call me old fashioned but when I am with other people I want our interaction to be what is of primary importance. At the same time which came first the chicken or the egg? Have we as a society become less connected because of texting or is our willingness to be texting because we are already distracted and only going through life at a shallow level? Is the fast food culture keeping feeding our already hurried lives or is it causing us to be unable to dig in and savor the flavor of life? Are we so wanting to avoid pain (or at least hurry past it) that we are willing to lose out on a lot of the pleasure in life as well? I am not sure.
    Glen (on your FB status) made a valid point when he asked you why you needed to control others. I understand what you think they are missing. I also get that is is truly a distraction to you as well. It would be for me too. Sadly the only solution I have control over is to not be with those individuals who would chose to text while watching movies with me or having conversation with me. I have often told my children the cell phone basket will be figuratively at the door when they come to visit. It is figuratively at the door when we are at the dinner table, when we play games together or when we entertain others in our home. And, we still excuse ourselves to answer the phone. I know there are multiple ways to look at texting and again I can not control how others see it but like a stubborn mule, I am unlikely to see it differently.

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