With all of the free time, people have right now, who could resist?
Well, we are living in interesting times right now. The global pandemic is continuing to grow and people are being told to stay inside, away from many things in life they have grown accustomed to. That gives people plenty of time to watch movies and TV shows, both old and newly released on digital. With a wide selection of different media available, it only makes sense to spotlight a film that has been making the rounds in the festival circuit.
The film Free Time comes to us from German director and SVA professor Manfred Kirchheimer. His filmography, which spans from 1963 to now, consists mainly of documentaries depicting urban life. His new film, Free Time, which premiered last year at the 57th New York Film Festival, contains black-and-white footage of New York City shot between 1958 and 1960. Said footage, filmed during summer, shows people of all ages doing summer things; kids playing stickball on the street and washing windows, senior citizens sitting outside reading newspapers, and adults working to help build the city and keep it moving.
With its rhythmic editing and pacing, it serves as a loving tribute to summer in New York City during a more hopeful time. And it does so in a way that is as laid back as the summer. There are no interview segments in Free Time, and not even any narration. All that is on display is footage, music, and sound (along with a few laughably chosen Foley effects.). This is the kind of film that acts more as an art piece, allowing you to absorb a seemingly relaxing summer day in New York City, without any analysis.
Why, out of all of the films and TV shows available to the world, would a short documentary film like Free Time be important to watch now? The current pandemic makes it an important film to watch now, as it serves as a window to a world that stands in stark contrast to the one we currently live in. How often do you see children playing in the streets nowadays? How often are people casually walking down the streets anymore? With so many new limitations and cautionary restrictions being placed on people around the world, and despite the “free time” that has been forced upon many, simple activities like sitting down and reading the newspaper outside seem like a lost prospect.
Free Time invites viewers to join in on the relaxations of the people on screen, and even though Kirchheimer made the film before the current pandemic, it now also invites us to appreciate the ways we used to enjoy free time and, perhaps, to make the best use of the amount we currently have.