Did movies invent slow-motion?
January 30, 2006 3:09 PM   Subscribe

Did actors and directors use slow-motion movements in live theater before moving pictures? What about movements of exaggerated speed?

Theater is what I'm most curious about, but I guess I would wonder about dance as well -- or if there was such a concept before video.
posted by ontic to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I first thought of Artaud, who used all sorts of insane movements of people and objects in his works, but I guess he's later than you're looking.

The Wikipedia article on slow motion mentions Noh theatre, and I would think that many ritualistic performances would incorporate at least some slow-motion movements and that many directors or choreographers would have picked those up for their own works.
posted by occhiblu at 3:16 PM on January 30, 2006

Best answer: A common theatrical method of simulating slow-mo is by using stroboscopic lighting, as discussed here. Since this technology dates back to the 1830s with the near-simultaneous invention of the Phenakistoscope and the Stroboscope, it has been available to directors (and early film pioneers) for quite a while.

In modern theater, one of the most prominent users of strobe effects has been Richard Foreman, founder of the Ontological-Hysteric Theater in NYC.
posted by rob511 at 4:34 PM on January 30, 2006

Best answer: If you're talking about gesture and physicality, then the answer is absolutely yes. The ancient Greeks, especially when playing grotesques, used interpretive gesture and vocalization. Ditto 18th and 19th century kabuki players. So long as there has been theater, there has been movement experimentation -- including slow movement.
posted by milquetoast at 4:57 PM on January 30, 2006

Best answer: As another data point besides the better-known Japanese theater, Java's (modern day Indonesia) history includes cermonial dance-drama with slow-motion movements. More than simply dances, they have many of the elements of theater. There is srimpi, dating from the 16th century, "in which two pairs of girls execute a delicate slow-motion duel". The Petilan dance mentioned here with other Javanese traditional dances appears to use similar stylized effects.
posted by mdevore at 10:27 PM on January 30, 2006

Fascinating question, thanks to asker and respondents.
posted by Wolof at 1:50 AM on January 31, 2006

Response by poster: Great answers. Thanks everyone.
posted by ontic at 1:17 PM on January 31, 2006

A late answer, ontic, if you're still checking. Apparently the use of slow-motion as a method of emphasizing action sequences was not popularized until The Wild Bunch. I suspect that most of the slow-motion-in-live-action clichés we're familiar with -- the man running, shouting nooooo!, that sort of thing -- derive from this use in action films, which is terribly late compared to what one might think.
posted by dhartung at 11:10 AM on February 1, 2006

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