Making Time

Liz Unna’s documentary Making Time bounces between subjects who all share a career in watchmaking, and have an overall obsession with time itself.  Being a horologist has put life into perspective for these meticulous people, and has issued a number of self-reflections and epiphanies.  This collective fascination is the frequency Unna invests all of her storytelling confidence in.  Unfortunately, Making Time lacks personal touches as well as a coherency between the doc’s interviewees.

Making Time doesn’t want to be a conventional documentary that routinely alternates between B-roll and “talking heads”.  But actually, Unna’s film could’ve benefited from more of these basic choices.  Most of the film is told through narration and nuanced dramatizations which may spice up the film’s delivery but, without a primary connection to who’s talking, the audience isn’t as engaged as they could be.  When the film is trying to be poetic about the mechanics of time, simply hearing a voice gives the doc a conceited presentation;  making the viewer think the filmmaker became lost in their own efforts for poignancy.  Making Time does correct this issue by, thankfully, adding more visible interviews later on.

A larger, more glaring misstep is the film’s seemingly muddy communication between the filmmaker and the subjects.  Some interviewees are using this opportunity to open themselves up like a book, which is appreciated even if the style waters their stories down.  Other interviewed talent (notably The Invisible Man’s Aldis Hodge and MB&F founder Max Büsser) derail the movie to promote their own ambitions and products.  Perhaps this latter problem could’ve been fixed with a more disciplined edit, but the core of this issue begins with the original recording of these interviews.  It’s up to the director to carve out a path for their project, but the interviewee is steering the ship during these segments;  suggesting that these key personalities in front of the camera are just too big for this project.

Canadian documentarian Jay Cheel (Beauty Day, How to Build a Time Machine) has been making films similar to Making Time, but without losing the heart of a project.  I suggest Liz Unna should watch Cheel’s work and take notes.


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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie

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