Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Experience of Time

As I've been reading The Lord of the Rings, I've been thinking about the experience of time in books versus the experience of time in movies.

I've watched the 6-hour Pride and Prejudice many times, and decided to re-read the book. It was better. It was slower, had more detail, and seemed more real.

The same is true of the Peter Jackson's movies (which are, let's be honest, totally rad and examples of amazing, excellent big-budget filmmaking!) versus the books themselves. No matter what tricks films do to make us believe more time has gone by than actually has, it still only feels like the tightly budgeted 120 minutes...or, in Peter Jackson's case, the generous 180 minutes per installment.

But in the books, whether it's Austen's Pride and Prejudice or Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, time feels different. I may only have 5 or 10 minutes to sit and read, but it feels more real; it feels less rushed. Clock-time says "It's been 5 minutes!" but my experience of time might be three days of nonstop Orc-chasing with Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas...one intense moment of Frodo's internal battle to master the Ring...a thousand years of Elf history...several millenia of Ent history...and so on and so forth.

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