It seems that long, drawn-out film shots are becoming increasingly common in cinema. Take critically acclaimed films of the last decade like Gravity, 1917 and Birdman. All of them feature single shots lasting well over five minutes, and regularly patch together multiple shots to give the appearance of a continuous one.
There are even recent examples of entire movies captured in a single shot: Boiling Point had a run time of 94 minutes and was nominated for four BAFTAs; Russian Ark ran 96-minutes and featured hundreds of different actors in period costume; while a film called Victoria from 2015 ran for nearly 140 minutes, focusing on a young Spanish woman in Berlin.
None of these feature the longest film shot of all time, however. In fact, none of these are even close.
The longest commercially released film shot ever is a whopping 607 minutes. Not a lot happens. The film is called Paint Drying and features a continuous shot of a white wall.
It was made in 2016 by British artist and filmmaker, Charlie Shackleton, to protest against censorship and the rising costs for independent filmmakers submitting their work to the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) – the board that certifies age-ratings in the United Kingdom. There is no audio, and the concept and title come from the phrase “watching paint dry”, to describe something boring.
You may be wondering what exactly Shackleton’s protest achieves. By submitting Paint Drying to the BBFC, he forced them to watch the entire film in order to give it an age-rating classification.
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In 2015, the year of Shackleton’s submission, it cost £101.50 ($152 in 2015) plus £7.09 ($10.75) per minute of runtime to have a film reviewed by the BBFC.
Shackleton raised money for the submission through crowdfunding, receiving donations from 686 different backers on Kickstarter, eventually reaching £5,936. After Kickstarter’s fees, this funded 607 minutes of submission – the film’s eventual run time. Were more money raised, Paint Drying could initially have run even longer. Shackleton collected over 14 hours of continuous film.
From the BBFC, examiners split the viewing into two sessions over two different days. After reviewing the film, Paint Drying BBFC was awarded ‘U’ for ‘Universal. They concluded there was “no material likely to offend or harm.”
Despite its deliberately boring subject matter, Paint Drying was acclaimed. Based on 582 votes on IMDB, it has an 8.8/10 rating, while it scores 4.9 out of 5 based on 62 Google reviews.