Time Stood Still | Chicago Reader

Time Stood Still

Ermanno Olmi, best known for The Tree of Wooden Clogs, got his start making in-house documentaries for an electric company, which is how this 1958 film, his first fiction feature, originated. Two watchmen guarding a hydroelectric dam in the mountains are separated when the younger of them leaves to care for his wife, who's just given birth. The youth sent to replace him hopes to use his time at the frigid outpost to study for an exam, and though the older man is put off by the fact that his new partner is a teetotaler (“Someone who doesn't drink doesn't want to sing either”), he warms to the young man after he spies him dancing in the snow. True to its origins, the film abjures drama and suspense to record the details of daily life, but its sense of real time is illusory: many scenes are compressed or elided with no discernible logic underlying the choices, and ultimately the story morphs into a tale of Christian love. In Italian with subtitles. 86 min.

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