Sarah Cardwell
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The value of simplicity
The Long Wait
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The Long Wait established a seasonal television tradition: the John Lewis Christmas advert. This chapter explores the simplicity which underpins The Long Wait’s artistic and aesthetic achievements, and thereby makes a case for the value of simplicity as a potentially precious quality in television works. It examines a number of the film’s artistic and stylistic choices, including its use of perspective; imagery and framing; shapes, patterns and movements; integration of audio and visual qualities; visual echoes and repetitions; and rhythm, reverberation and resonance. It considers how the film addresses its theme – temporality – in a way that generates complexity available to the attentive and engaged viewer.

The Long Wait was created within a televisual landscape and critical context in which complexity is celebrated as a criterion of value, yet it demonstrates, commends and celebrates simplicity. It does so by drawing extensively and creatively, explicitly and implicitly, upon conceptions of simplicity old and new. In its intricate layering of details, The Long Wait is formally sophisticated, its meticulous artistic design becoming apparent under close scrutiny. Thus the work maintains its formal simplicity via two complexities: the deft artistry behind its creation and the concealment of this creative process to make a virtue of simplicity. Similarly, its clarity of purpose and the inextricable connections between its chosen perspective and its theme confer simple, singular coherence.

In a critical context which prioritises complexity, The Long Wait’s commitment to simplicity offers a salutary reminder of its aesthetic value – one that we might appreciate more keenly.

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Complexity / simplicity

Moments in television


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