New Criticals

Dying and Time

Clocks do not reveal time, they conceal it. Checking the clock does not put us into time, but takes us out of it. We obsessively look at our clocks, watch our watches, glance at our cell phones for fear of losing time, but by that very act of finding, time is precisely lost. Knowing "the time" is not knowing a presence, but an absence. The clock is the veil of Time.

As it were, Christian Marclay's "The Clock" is not a film about clocks. It is about Time, but it is also about space, experience, continuity, fragmentation, memory, meaning, and, ultimately, a masterpiece memento mori that puts us face to face with our own finitude, our own death, and, consequently, our own life. The idea for the film is deceptively simple: for each minute of the 24-hour day, Marclay has found a corresponding scene from film or television where an image of a clock appears or a reference to that exact minute is made. At 12:04, a BBC announcer crams to announce the headlines before the minute is up, cut to an alarm clock that reads 12:05 where a young Richard Gere takes a bump of cocaine while getting ready to leave for some unknown place that requires him to wear a suit, cut to a dapper man in a bowler exiting a building, checking his watch, then discovering a dead homeless man behind a trash can. A minute has passed.  At 4:32, Mathew Broderick timidly calls some “Linda” while he nurses a black eye with a cold bottle of champagne. He hangs up the phone, cut to a two men eating dinner with two young girls, cut to the reflection of a clock, 4:33, in a salon. Another minute. At the noon hour, scenes of lunch. As the afternoon develops, the alcohol appears. After midnight, loneliness and fear. At each quarter hour and half hour, the drama builds. At each hour, it seems like the world is about to explode: someone is late, someone is absent, a lover appears, a bomb detonates, a catastrophe diffused.