Time plays a big role in the 2269 project: Insisting on a wait of 250 years for the event, it is, at its heart, about the passing of time – in the present and from one generation to the next. As an epic that unfolds over centuries, time is an intrinsic part of the narrative. Temporality is a central character of the 2269 story.
Looking at the work of our latest pantheon recipient, filmmaker Richard Linklater, you can see that he understands the power of this. The BFI puts it succinctly: “If cinema is the art of time passing, then Linklater is proving to be one of its most actively engaged and thoughtful directors.”
Going back to his earliest work, writer and director Richard Linklater has explored the notion of time and its passing, and the illusion that it stops without purposefulness. The one day time span of, and nine-year gaps between his ‘Before Sunrise’ trilogy, as well as films like Slacker, lack traditional narrative curves and shapes. This allow us to contemplate the nature of time, amongst awkward notions of mortality and real or imagined growth.
Boyhood, released in 2014, arguably his tour-de-force – although this writer loves School of Rock with a deep and abiding passion – is fascinating in any number of ways.
It’s twelve-year shooting schedule allows us to see aging and transformation on an organic level that is difficult to reproduce convincingly. The narrative is subtly influenced by changes in the wider world between shoots. This brings a verisimilitude – we more readily allow ourselves to believe what we are seeing on screen is true, because on some level, it is.
The persistence and the patience required to stagger a production in this way is astounding. That mainstream cinema allowed him to make a movie like that is equally astonishing. This is, after all, an industry so obsessed with short-termism that it would reboot, reiterate and abandon a property entirely in the time it took Linklater to finish this one project.
Yet, the kicker here is that 12 years is nothing. To the boy, it’s a lifetime. To the adults, it’s just another phase, which, if you weren’t paying attention, went by in the blink of an eye.
Even his most traditional movies are one layer deeper than they seem. School of Rock has a meta-narrative – those children would grow, quickly and irresistibly, until they were adults, before we were ready. I don’t believe that he hadn’t thought of that, and felt its potential as part and parcel of the whole moving forward.
Right now, Linklater is working on a film version of Merrily We Roll Along, due to be completed in 2039, with the twenty-year story to be told in reverse. Obviously.
Richard Linklater gets it. And we’re pretty certain he’ll get 2269 too. Enjoy the poster, Richard.
I always had that long-term vision. Even getting going with cinema, knowing it was such a long road to be able to make films, but I always had a long term. Whenever I was starting out, I had that patience.
NB. This article was written back when our ‘Guests of Honour’ section was called ‘The 2269 Pantheon’.