Since the primary distinguishing characteristic of a novella is length, it occurs to me that our quest for the greatest novella-like movie may need to consider runtime as one of its qualities. I will somewhat arbitrarily say it needs to be longer than 60 minutes (to distinguish it from television episodes). Ninety minutes feels like the right cutoff, and I’ve already proposed two that were below that. (Woody Allen’s Zelig and John Huston’s The Dead.) I see this particular quality (sub-90-minute movies) has been explored.
Rope is a good addition.
Also Before Sunrise (which I mentioned before). City Lights? I’d have to watch that again. Purple Rose of Cairo – well, maybe, but it is almost like a long short story. (Again, I’m basically reduced to going on feel.) Several of the Godard films work, and maybe the Bergman, although those are almost like short novels more than novellas.
Have a favorite movella? Let me know!
A person holding a hammer thinks everything looks like a nail… but does a person obsessed with novellas see them everywhere? Apparently.
I saw the exquisite Before Midnight on a cross-country flight last week (thank you, Virgin America, for providing the best in-flight entertainment package currently in existence, and also for using those purple lights that put everyone in a let’s-be-human mood as they board).
I have really come to love this series of movies, maybe because I’m growing up with them. And even more because they feel very adult. I often find myself seeing both sides in the arguments that Ethan Hawke and Julia Delpy have. They’re both being reasonable! And yet there’s conflict! Because life is difficult!
And then it occurred to me: an intense focus on a single set of problems, a limited set of characters, a strong drive from start to finish, a compact timeframe… this is sounding a lot like the filmic equivalent of a novella! (A movella?)
What is the most novella-like movie you can think of? For some reason I’m putting Zelig (84 minutes!) down as my choice, though John Huston’s The Dead (83!) is a close second. And I would not argue with any of the Before movies.
Or the Kieslowski Three Colors movies? What are they but a trilogy of movellas?
Is there some way other than feel to judge this?
What do you think – what has your vote for the best movella of all time?