James Benning’s film, Thirteen Lakes, is not for the impatient. 135 minutes long, the film consists of ten-minute stationary shots of thirteen bodies of water across the Unites States.
On April 14 the Campus Theatre played Thirteen Lakes in front of a small audience. The event was co-sponsored by Bucknell’s Office of the Provost, Department of English, Programs in Environmental Studies and Place Studies, and the Center for Sustainability and the Environment. Scott McDonald is a historian of American non fiction independent film who shared his opening remarks. “This is a tricky film to introduce”, he said. He mentioned that it wasn’t a film for everyone. “If it’s something you can handle, great!”
Reactions to the film varied. The rustling heard in the quiet auditorium suggested the restlessness of some of the audience members. The two people sitting in front of me fell asleep fifteen minutes into the film. However, there were audience members who seemed to be completely entranced.
In his introduction, McDonald began by bringing up popular reality T.V. shows. Keeping up with the Kardashians, Dance Moms, Project Runway, are exemplary of shows that are fast paced and packed full of drama. Thirteen Lakes provides a complete contrast to the popular cinema of today. McDonald said that, “Everything is about hurrying up, and a speedy life.” Thirteen Lakes is a film that demands that the audience slows down.
The stationary shots force the viewer to focus and meditate on the mystery and wonder of the natural world. Amidst our busy lives, the film reminds us of the importance of slowing down and taking the time to appreciate the environment and the place surrounding us.