It’s a recent import from our friends in Scandinavia and it’s catching on in a big way – slow TV is exactly that, slow. It can feature a train journey from Bergen to Oslo, or a five-and-a-half day programme showing the progress of the MS Nordnorge making roughly the same journey but in the sea.
Christmas 2015 saw British viewers bemused and enthralled alike by the sled journey of two Sami women as they schlepped through northern Norway with their reindeer. Bells jingling gently, hooves crunching on dry powdery snow, four hours of daylight fading and the stillness of a Nordic winter evening served to slow the UK’s hectic Christmas prepping right down.
There’s a real love of slow or repetitive film and video now, on TV as well as on YouTube. A particular favourite of many is film of a chain factory making, well, chains. It’s hypnotic, predictable and slightly dizzying and you just can’t take your eyes off it. It’s probably a real hit among the employees at real-life chain-makers like Renold.com for its simplicity and efficiency.
So what is it about this new wave of film, TV and footage that we’re finding so appealing? Do those Norwegians know something we don’t?
Quite possibly, it seems. It’s a well-documented fact that the Scandinavian countries enjoy a better quality of life than most others – is it because they enjoy simpler things more? Or is it because they take the time out from a busy schedule to enjoy these undemanding pastimes and entertainments?
Is it a cultural thing?
Many people believe that the success of a TV show giving the audience nothing but unedited footage of a sled, train or boat journey speaks to the national culture, to its identity. Norwegians love their reindeer journeys, as well as their boats, so in a sense, by embarking on a journey as a nation (that’s watching the programme, by the way) brings everyone together in a common purpose. In the UK people are very fond and proud of the canal system that transported coal and other goods to fuel the Industrial Revolution. Nowadays it transports retired couples and slow holidaymakers, but the Brits still love their waterways. To this end, a two-hour film of a narrowboat journey down the Kennet and Avon canal was made, and it gripped viewers in May 2015.
Is it safer than watching the news?
Slow TV is safe TV, it has to be said. These days many people dread watching the news as we have 24-hour rolling death tolls and new bombings. There’s nothing we can do about this and so sometimes the best option is to give yourself a break from the bad news and recharge your batteries. More conventional dramas can also be very busy and can occasionally mirror real life a bit too closely for comfort, as well. So slipping into a slow boat journey or a sled ride while peeling spuds for the Christmas dinner has a lot to say for itself – slowly and quietly, of course…