Jakob Boer | Sensing Slowness: A Phenomenology of Slow Cinema

Jakob Boer | Sensing Slowness: A Phenomenology of Slow Cinema Spectatorship University of Groningen, Department of Arts, Culture, and Media | Dr. Julian Hanich | 01 October 2021 – 31 September 2024 | j.boer[at]rug.nl

My PhD-research entails a qualitative audience study into the experience of watching slow cinema. This is ‘a type of cinema characterized by minimalism, austerity, and extended duration; downplaying drama, event, and action in favor of mood; and endowing the activity of viewing with a meditative or contemplative quality’ (Oxford Dictionary of Film Studies).

In my research, I ask what it is like to sense slowness; what do we do when we contemplate in the cinema; how do we engage in aesthetic meditative states? The designated method for this study is micro-phenomenology: a rigorous, empirically-informed phenomenological method entailing a specific interview and analysis method.

In addition to these phenomenological and aesthetic considerations, I investigate the ethical implications of this kind of spectatorship. I explore the possibility that people use this particular media practice as a form of ‘time work’ (Flaherty 2011). That is, I examine watching slow cinema as a form of temporal agency; a way of actively altering or modifying time experience. It functions as a process of relating to, negotiating, or actively subverting societal or ‘external sources of temporal constraints’ (ibid.). Against the background of our contemporary society, characterised by its ever-increasing acceleration(Hartmut Rosa), decreasing of attention, and proliferation of screens and media technologies, slow cinema stands out as a valuable media practice that fosters undivided, deep attention.