We are aware, above all, of time passing, the flux between epiphany and boredom, what an image gives and what we pull out of it with difficulty; and of us self-consciously watching time pass in all its fleet quietude. The jump to a new reader . . . is the film saying that even we readers of the readers of Readers, so attentive to the moment and its passing, cannot catch all time, it escapes before our eyes.
Like most of Benning’s work, the reverie of the viewer is as much a component as what’s on the screen. Each reader is as distinct as the book being read, an excerpt from which is provided on the black screens that serve as intervals. We are led to appreciate the state we occupy when we read—a lone activity that could seem intruded upon here but does not, and in which, though slight shifts of posture and attention are detectable, all the excitement and engagement of mind remains private.
It’s tempting, when writing about Readers, to stop at recreating the hypnotic feeling of watching the film. But this can give the false impression that Benning’s direction is nonexistent instead of just skillfully restrained; that his craft consists of turning on the camera and waiting for his viewers to do the hard work.