The perils of Slow-motion

Recently, I happened to watch “Ethirneechal” on Television, and I caught the scene near the end where the protagonist happens to win the marathon, in a story of underdog triumph amidst hurdles and peril. The content may be old wine, but what I would like to point out is the form and not the content.

Directors back here, especially the mainstream directors, tend to rely on ultra slow motion shots to enhance drama, and add to the tension. I feel that the technique not only robs the scene of any momentum, but also kills the drama of the scene. The scene in “Ethirneechal” was more or less in slow-mo, and although the scene would have lasted only for a few minutes, it felt excruciatingly long.

Let me take two scenes, which according to me are great cinematic achievements. One is a world renowned classic, and the other is an unsung and probably an under-appreciated masterpiece.  

The first one is from Sergio Leone’s “The Good, the bad and The Ugly”, the scene where The Ugly searches for the grave of Arch Stanton. With breath-taking music from Ennio Morricone and sweeping shots of The Ugly running, the scene makes us run with the character, search the entire grave yard with him, and the culminating seconds of the scene are an absolute masterpiece. Would the scene have been effective with slow motion shots and stylized versions of it? Probably not! Sergio Leone was a very intelligent man, and hence he has hundreds of burials in the graveyard, which kept the scene going for more than 2 minutes. The scene wouldn’t have been half as long if he had a few burials in there.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ubVc2MQwMkg

The second one is from Vikram Motwane’s “Udaan”, in a brilliant scene where the son finally escapes from the tyranny of his father in a bizarrely beautiful way. Again, there are no slow motion shots, and the camera follows both the characters as the father chases the son, and the camera stays with them till the son gets away in epic fashion. Amit Trivedi’s music creates a moment of epiphany, and cinematic brilliance is achieved.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VzNCKbtr8Uk

In the former scene, The Ugly’s character was sketched in such a way that he would search the entire grave yard for gold and in the latter the son had struggled enough and the sprint was the only way of escape. Both the directors had interesting characters and conflicts, but they also had the technical mastery to achieve what they set out to do. Film making isn’t only about writing brilliant pieces of dialogue and sending a “message”, but also about creating strong imagery with the given tools. Sergio Leone and Vikram Motwane did that with perfection, and the scene stays strongly in one’s mind.

This is not to say that slow motion shouldn’t be used. There are many cinematic moments where slow motion would enhance the purpose, but if Sivakarthikeyan would have jogged towards the finish line with the camera staying on him all through the way while he overtook his enemies, the scene could have been brilliant, because I truly believe “real time” has more drama than slow motion.

Do let me know the scenes where the characters “ran in real time” and you were amazed.

 

 

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5 thoughts on “The perils of Slow-motion

  1. The awesome long chase scene in Black Friday.. The entire action sequence of set to the remixed ‘Khoya Khoya Chand’ (I know every review I read before watching raved about it and I was still pleasantly surprised while watching), many sequences in Hitchcock’s movies – usually without any dialogue but almost always nail-biting!

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