Film critic Serge Daney and filmmaker Jacques Rivette on Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night, which is 105 minutes long:
Jacques Rivette: Now I’m convinced that, to go from Miami to New York in a film that has the same intensity of situation and characters, a serious director couldn’t do it in less than three hours. For the same journey. So the means of transport are actually slower nowadays than fifty years ago! It takes much longer now to go from Miami to New York than in 1934.
Serge Daney: The difference is that someone like Capra knew how his story would end when he started. So the end presented no problems and on that basis he could invent a lot in between, either digressively or elliptically. But there came a time when, for certain basic reasons that we mentioned, moral reasons, it was impossible for a post-Antonionian director like you to start a film knowing exactly how it would finish…That Evil would triumph over good…
Jacques Rivette: The dénouement has become impossible.
Serge Daney: Without a dénouement time becomes cyclical or circular and films can last 1 hour, 2 hours, 3 hours, 10 hours. The story would be less problematic than the fact that we’ve lost sight of the word “FIN.” Maybe only the Americans ever had it.