You remember slow TV? Pioneered by the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, with its classic Bergensbanen — minutt for minutt (2009), which simply stuck a camera on the front of a train and recorded the seven-hour journey from Bergen to Oslo, slow TV is a nice idea, unless you’re in a hurry, or you have an actual life.
The advantage of what you might call Slow YouTube is that it’s pretty damn quick in comparison to the original hardcore Scandi stuff. Slow YouTube — a term I’ve just invented — tends to consist of short documentary-style pans and long shots of everyday things, places and people, a bit like watching your uncle’s old cine-footage of your aunt walking down the street sometime in the 1970s.
Some of the best slow stuff on YouTube is on a channel called Morthren, which seems to belong to someone called Daz. (The channel details read, rather winningly, ‘Hi, I’m Daz… I like all kinds of electrical and mechanical equipment such as lifts/elevators, signalling equipment, telephony, fire and intruder alarms… I make videos of things I find interesting and a few random things too!’ Woo, Daz!) With clickbait like ‘Abandoned Folkestone Harbour Branch Line, or is it?’ and ‘Gillingham Level Crossing halogen wigwags replaced’, Morthren is pulling in millions of views.
Most popular is ‘Woolhampton Swing Bridge’, which has clocked up more than 1.8 million views and which is, in Daz’s entirely accurate summary, simply ‘the swing bridge in Woolhampton. I have a look at it then see it operating’.
Why on earth would millions of people want to watch what amounts to shaky hand-held camera footage of a bridge?
If you were a philosopher you might say that these short, slow films, without commentary, poorly miked, and almost entirely lacking in the grammar of film or television, are signs of the utter hopelessness of trying to grasp the world’s wonders.
I am not a philosopher, but what I do know is that if all art is a preparation for death, then Morthren may be the closest thing to heaven currently on screen.