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Fast And Faster: Is It Worth Watching Movies At 2X Speed?

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Photo: New Trend - Watching Movies At 2X Speed, Source: Collage The Gaze \ by Leonid Lukashenko
Photo: New Trend - Watching Movies At 2X Speed, Source: Collage The Gaze \ by Leonid Lukashenko

Today, many people have started doing this, so it's a question worth pondering. Is it even normal? Or is it a cultural crime, deserving of penalties and imprisonment for those who, from the comfort of their living room recliner, turn every film into a double-speed frenzy?

Quentin Tarantino once said, "What I can't understand is that the average American can't sit through a 3-hour movie, but can watch a stupid football match for 4 hours." In reality, the situation is even worse...

Firstly, recordings of sports broadcasts are one of those types of media content that people increasingly watch at 1.5 to 2 times the speed. Similarly, various lectures on YouTube or multi-hour podcasts and interviews. Imagine: there's even a practice of watching meditation tutorials at double speed. Enlightenment at 2x speed... Secondly, the trend towards rapid information consumption has long spilled over into the realm of art, such as feature films and series. So who knows if Tarantino could refrain from suicide upon learning how many people watched his "The Hateful Eight" not for the intended 187 minutes, but somewhere around 93.5.

Today, both YouTube and Netflix, as well as other video services, have players with adjustable playback speed. Likewise, you can watch a DVD movie twice as fast using VLC or similar software. Moreover, in the market for pirate discs, pre-accelerated films are sold, which would never exist if there were no demand for such products. A recent survey by the analytics company YouGov showed that 27% of people watch videos at higher speeds, with this figure doubling among people under 25.

So what's actually happening? Where is everyone rushing to? And what do they gain from it?

The trend of consuming accelerated video content emerged after rumors spread that this practice is beneficial for neurodivergent individuals - for example, those diagnosed with ADHD. Supposedly, if it's hard for you to concentrate and endure long shots in "Days of Heaven," don't torture yourself - just switch to accelerated speed, because it won't affect the plot's comprehension... Well, maybe it won't affect that, but it will definitely affect the cardiovascular health of 80-year-old Terrence Malick when he recalls how painstakingly he shot his film, managing only 20 minutes of work per day during the "golden hour" before sunset. And all this was done precisely for those long shots that ultimately earned the film its reputation as the most enchanting visual sequence in the history of cinema.

The second surge in mass adoption of accelerated playback occurred after some researchers conducted small but resonant studies on efficiency and time management. For example, cognitive psychologist Dillon H. Murphy of the University of California divided 200 students into two groups and showed them videos on law and history. The first group watched at normal speed, the second at an accelerated pace. In the end, both groups showed similar results in tests assessing information retention. There were other studies that found a significant impact on memory of viewed material only at speeds exceeding 2x.

But no one conducted such studies on a large sample of people. And they all had exclusively laboratory and episodic character. So it is completely unknown what will happen to a person who day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year watches dozens-hundreds-thousands of videos at an accelerated speed. Although one might dare to suggest that such a wretched viewer, with a head full of information mush, will easily believe in some flat earth theory, or in people being zombified by mobile phone towers, or will go out to protest in support of the terrorist acts of Gaza Strip militants. Seen much, but understood nothing properly.

Remember what they told us in school? It's not important what you studied, but what you've learned. People who watch videos at accelerated speeds want to spend their time efficiently, and that's understandable, because time is one of the most valuable resources, never replenished, only mercilessly passing. However, if you watch one good lecture in the evening and really think it over, and then discuss it with friends, family, or colleagues - that will surely be beneficial and enjoyable. But if you watch three lectures, two podcasts, and several interviews in the evening - all in accelerated mode - then it's only your erudition that gets a boost. It might help with crossword puzzles, nothing more.

Well, with art, that approach just doesn't work at all. Because art isn't about squeezing the maximum out of life, becoming super-efficient, and trying to be everywhere at once. Art is about making the reality bestowed upon us by nature bearable. Therefore, accelerating art is akin to accelerating sex: it's nonsense. People usually move in the opposite direction. Think about the Japanese, who are willing to sit for hours in one place and admire a rock garden, practicing mono-no-aware (an aesthetic principle based on an emotional response akin to the appreciation of the evident and hidden beauty of things and phenomena, tinged with sadness due to the feeling of the illusory and fleeting nature of everything we see).

It's unreasonable to consume art as information. Certainly, a few seconds are enough to see Rembrandt's "Night Watch." So why do people sit in front of it for hours in museums and then come back to sit for half a day? What did they miss yesterday? Perhaps they find something there that cannot be glimpsed at double speed... And good cinematography is 24 such images per second, so it moves quite quickly even without acceleration. Moreover, the plot itself, the information you can only absorb at 2x speed, is only crucial in bad films. Bad films shouldn't be watched at all. How can you tell a film is bad in the first 10 minutes? That's the point - you'll want to speed it up.

As for good films, the plot is just the tip of the iceberg, a formal pretext for everything else. Maybe if you can only endure a minute-long video on Shorts or Reels without speeding it up, you simply don't need to watch films where the director, for example, sweated and carefully thought out the pace, rhythm, and countless other nuances beyond the purely informational plot, which you can actually familiarize yourself with on a Wikipedia article or numerous YouTube channels with 10-minute film summaries. Not to mention that all plots are archetypal and have long been used by Homer, Euripides, Aeschylus, and Sophocles. If you've read ancient classics, you don't need to hunt for interesting plots anymore - you'll find only repetitions of repetitions of repetitions...

It's hard to say whether any benefit will come to a specific person if they spend part of their life watching the very slow and very long "2001: A Space Odyssey." But if they watch Kubrick's film twice as fast, it will definitely be time wasted. Let's remember what Coco Chanel taught us: 

"There is a time to work and a time to love, and no other time."

So let's just forget about bad films, love only the good ones, and not waste the precious time of our singular life on accelerating their viewing.

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