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Diana Popa

The Aesthetics of Slowness

Slowness, as an aspect of time in film, has been recently discussed in response to an aesthetic and stylistic trend in international filmmaking loosely described as slow cinema. In the February 2010 issue of Sight and Sound, Jonathan Romney defined slow cinema as a ‘varied strain of austere minimalist cinema,’ suggesting that the term allows stylistic variations, does not refer to a homogenous group of films and needs to be explored in its diversity. New Romanian Cinema, with films such as The Death of Mr Lazarescu (2005), 12:08 East of Bucharest (2006), 4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007), Police, adjective (2009), Aurora (2010), Tuesday, after Christmas (2010) andBeyond the Hills (2012), is part of the larger international trend of slow cinema. Drawing upon an existing body of research on cinematic time, I will examine stylistic practices in order to explore how slowness can be described through mise-en-scène and cinematography.

My research will contextualise slowness in New Romanian Cinema in two ways. First, by situating it briefly in relation to previous traditions of the slow in Romanian filmmaking under state-socialism (communism). Second, by looking at the way in which the contemporary films relate to the increased preoccupations with time in film today, notably in so-called European art cinema and festival cinema, thus being able to see the historical specificity of forms of slowness.

The term slow cinema is used to describe a contemplative, meditative mode of filmmaking. I suggest that slowness in New Romanian Cinema can also create doubt and equivocation about, for example, an historical event and a personal trauma that is never explicitly spelled out. I will show that the specificity of slowness in New Romanian Cinema relates to the way in which the most banal sequences can be crackling with tension.

Looking at this moment of Romanian filmmaking as part of the current trend of ‘slow films’ can help us understand the distinctiveness and specificity of these films in relation to the wider array of slow cinema, with which they nevertheless share aesthetic similarities.