The 154 minute Exodus Gods and Kings left many movie goers burned out by the first hour and a half (some the first 20 minutes) and too beaten to care much for the coming hour. But would an intermission solve this epics exhaustion? Or would viewers take the opportunity to leave? Or, would they be disappointed that they had lost the films sense of immersion? Lawrence Of Arabia, and 2001: A Space Odyssey have intermissions built into their current DVD/Bluray formats. I’d argue that 2001’s is more essential to the whole than the former, but both have been packaged to retain their moments of respite.
So lets think about Intermission’s in current films. Would it work? Do audiences have the attention spans anymore(doubtful)? But it all depends really. Does the intermission make sense in the context of the film? Is the film immersive enough to make you want to come back? Would it relieve exhaustion from current epics like Interstellar and Exodus? Lets look closer at 2001’s Intermission and how it operates. Roger Ebert publically coined the term “Pillow shot” in his review of Yasujiro Ozu’s Tokyo Story. It referred to Ozu’s use of still tranquil shots that cushioned the audience and allowed them to contemplate what came before. 2001 uses it’s intermission in a similar way. The screen goes black and the Monolith soundtrack begins to hum. Here the intermission is essential to the experience because 2001 is heavy in visual symbolism. It gives the audience some much needed time to muse over what they’ve seen.
But the intermission is not a miracle repair to poor pacing or filmmaking. Would Exodus run better with an intermission? Maybe if someone drugged my popcorn during the break, but otherwise my un-stimulated self would come away just as unsatisfied, if not more for having to push myself to return. Maybe it’s the buckets of golden brown makeup Scott showered on his white cast of biblical Egyptians that’s wearing me down, or maybe it’s my own fault for repeatedly asking myself “This is the same guy who made Blade Runner?”. But I digress. Should we have intermissions today? Sure, if it makes sense. I’m confident the new Hobbit film could use a well placed intermission. Actually the Hobbit trilogy already had one, but it ran three hours long and they slapped the title “Desolation of Smaug” on it.
So, intermissions, they work, and they don’t. Personally I wouldn’t mind a well placed break, but could they work with todays mainstream audience? I think if it’s done well fine, but it’ll take a daring filmmaker to figure it out for sure. And that’s the main concern really, is marketability. In a time when going to the cinema is more an inconvenience than soaking into your couch and streaming, having an intermission in your film becomes an especially sticky decision. But I don’t think it would backlash that hard… Hollywood’s just gotta regrow those shrunken balls of theirs like they have in the past; and when they see the theater audience drifting you bet your buttons they’ll be desperate enough to do anything they can to shove people back into the theaters; just hope a 3D movie influx isn’t their solution.