The 'Theory of Everything' is a case in point, an otherwise masterful film could have spared us the repetitive flashbacks towards its end. Audiences are not stupid and laboured points about the history of a relationship or illness, had already been well and truly made, in earlier scenes.
When a film approaches or exceeds the three hour mark, as in the case of 'Mr Turner' and 'Boyhood' directors and editors should remember they are beginning to test the bladders of their audiences as well as their patience and level of interest with the film's content.
If a film gets too long I tend to doze off, as I did, quite aptly, in 'Winter Sleep'. It was not that the story wasn't fascinating. It dealt with dark aspects of small town life, caught by dark cinematographic techniques and this otherwise masterpiece of plot and characterisation was being screened in a darkened space. Personally, I begin to doze off, when I begin to feel I am watching more of the same kinds of interactions between characters. These "lost souls' end up losing me as an audience member, not because the acting is bad; most often the performances are compelling, but truly great film-makers understand cutting some of even the very best performances out of a movie may do more to strengthen the film as a whole and are redundant in conveying unnecessary information to an audience.
Even 'Gone Girl' had me thinking "oh great it's about to end", but it didn't, several times over. Had half an hour been cut from it, I believe ' Gone Girl' could have ranked up there with Psycho as a modern masterpiece!
As a child I sat through and loved some very long films, such as 'Ben Hurr', 'Giant', 'Gone with the Wind' and even the 'Sound Of Music' 'My Fair Lady' and 'Mary Poppins', but back then such long films were deliberately punctuated midway by an interval, a point where the action was left hanging, whilst the audience exited the cinema to stretch their legs, empty their bladders and go and buy more jaffas or an ice cream, to enjoy during the subsequent half of the film.
To me it's a no-brainer, that if film-makers want to make epic films of over three hours duration, then they should be beholden to include and interval for exactly the same reasons as film-makers did in the past. Sadly the tradition of interval with either a feature length film, or double feature, of two shorter films may well be something good movie-houses look at reinstating thesedays. We are getting many wonderful films which can easily be paired by genre, but where a film goes beyond the three hour comfort zone, is it so difficult to cut in an interval to heighten the film's tension?
Intervals were phased out as the television era overtook cinema for cheap entertainment. Budgets got lower as the age of the big movie houses declined. The film going public got thin on the ground and thousands of cinemas closed their doors for the final time, as the public switched over to the small screen.
Thankfully some cinema diehards remained, as they do still, relishing the experience of communal movie watching on the big screen. Single screen cinemas morphed into today's multiplexes and more amazingly specialist art-house movie lovers paradises, such as the Nova, opened their doors catering to today's film-going and adoring public.
In about the mid 1980s, 'Titanic' heralded in a new kind of movie marathon. One where a single movie laboured a point, scene after scene that should have been cut to create a consise, informative and moving work of film, remained within the final content of the film and audiences loved it!
I found 'Titanic' an endurance test; never has a boat taken so long to sink. However, the original film about the sinking of the Titanic, 'A Night To Remember' remains concise, moving and compelling. Much is left to the audiences emotional memory and imagination, to excellent effect. It is not swamped with sentimental romance and expensive special effects.
Thus began the new era of epic bum numbing films, where length seems to be equated with merit.
Directors and film editors need to take on board the defining addage of print and television journalists; "when in doubt leave out". Journalists are all trained to expect to lose readers with every paragraph they write and keep stories direct and to the point,. Today's film-makers would do well to take a leaf out of their books.
I applauded when 'Boyhood' finally ended, not because I loved the film, but because I was over-joyed it was finally over. I saw at least three points that could have provided endings; missed opportunities. I didn't care for a single scene after the protagonist had made it to college, but we got them anyway. That is not a good sign. It is not the mark of a great movie. If even one audience member is hanging out for a film to end, it is not a directorial success, but failure. I left raving about the film's length but little more. A good movie is never an endurance test!
Full credit should go to directors that are sufficiently discriminating and able to recognise the art of editing for what it shoulld be; "refinement"!