One of the constants in the universe is that each of us – every single one of us – at one time or another has been bored. Whether it’s been bored at school or bored at work or bored at home or (even) bored in the bedroom, we’ve all felt that mental pull tugging us psychologically out of a moment, most likely depositing us somewhere inside the confines of our imagination wherein we aren’t bored, if not far from it. That’s precisely what BOREDOM seeks to explore, and explore it the documentary does, though the shtick does grow a bit tedious in its own estimations.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the product packaging: “Believe it or not this is the first serious documentary on boredom. Director Albert Nerenberg (Laughology, Stupidity) asks why the subject of boredom has been so religiously avoided and shows that boredom isn’t what you think it is. The film’s breakthrough research suggests boredom is likely a state of stress. It may also be killing you. Perhaps the powers that be would rather you not know that, especially if you’re inside some kind of education institution or dead end job. In this entertaining romp Nerenberg blows the lid off the boredom conspiracy and reveals a culture that not only tolerates boredom but actually promotes it.”
FYI: And – what they’re not telling you – is that all of this came down because, one day, the producer lost his cell phone!
BOREDOM is (mostly) a delight. It’s a documentary, but given its subject matter it’s pretty clear to me that Nerenberg never quite took the subject seriously, nor does he expect the audience to. That’s why most of his experts appear on-camera with smiles, I suppose: they can’t quite believe what they’re talking about as well as the fact that they’ve been dubbed ‘experts’ on the subject of boredom. One lady even tries to describe boredom as an emotion, which I personally think is highly questionable.
In any event, taken with a grain of salt BOREDOM does tickle the funny bone not in any big way but with a winning smile from start to finish. Nothing escapes Nerenberg’s observations on the matter; he indicts the education system as well as the world of work for creating atmospheres that serve to foster boredom and then criticize students and workers from suffering its effects. However, as the flick wears on it becomes clear that scientists and organizations dedicating to understanding human behavior have factually committed plenty of research to the topic; what has been done just doesn’t address boredom head-on, choosing instead to measure the more relatable factors such as brain activity, visual stimuli, and the like.
At the center of the film’s purported controversy is the reality that so many entities appear to have created environments institutionally rife with boredom or, at least, cultures where boredom will unquestionably flourish. Repetitive labor has long been known to instigate far more boredom than it has ever cured, but Nerenberg shows that it isn’t any stretch to conclude that some folks way of life might very well be creating much more intellectual downtime that they realize. As the average person whiles away his or her every moment with distraction, it isn’t hard to conclude that the absence of any diversion will increase the likelihood of boredom in young and old alike. What is novel is how our narrator suggests and investigates how this malady might actually be responsible for people rioting around the world.
What’s sadly missing (an uncharacteristic miss for any legitimate documentary) is the exploration of any possible solutions to boredom (its various causes and effects). There’s plenty of lip service paid to how we may have put ourselves in this mess, but there’s virtual zero discussion of how to get out of it.
BOREDOM (2012) is produced by Disinformation. DVD distribution is being coordinated through Entertainment One (aka E One Entertainment). As for the technical specifications, this is a smartly made documentary feature, and (for the most part) the highest quality sights and sounds are utilized to underscore the informative academics. (There are a few sequences wherein the producers used news broadcast footage, and some of that is necessarily grainy.) Lastly, the disc boasts two different cuts of the film along with two featurettes (Stages of Boredom and The Mountain that Boredom Built) which appear to be edits from the longer piece. (At a total of 7 extra minutes, they’re really not all that special.)
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. BOREDOM is – like the title implies – all about boredom. Fortunately, it’s a lean 61 minutes (I did find myself looking at my watch in its latter half), but producers even offer up an accelerated version (48 min.) on behalf of the easily-bored. The documentary/mockumentary certainly offers up an interesting and amusing premise – it’s boredom that ails mankind – but it kinda/sorta wears thin the more it essentially blames nobody for nothing. The way I see it, boredom is only the symptom of a vastly greater problem.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Entertainment One (aka E One Entertainment) provided me with a DVD copy of BOREDOM by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.