Week 5: Catholic Priests, Cinema and the Communal Space

I’m not the best person to talk to about cinema. Film I love, but the cinema? Nothing appeals to me less than forcing myself out of my small, dark, quiet room only to force myself into a larger, darker, louder room. Especially to watch a film, which I for whatever reason, consider a solo activity. Quite to the disdain of my girlfriend, I’d rather watch the film than cuddle or woo. She’s always trying to kiss me and what not. Just watch the movie, Liv. Moreover the prospect of sharing a space with a bunch of strangers and then relying on their silence to enjoy something really puts me on edge. You can’t trust people. At worst they talk and at best they do that annoyingly loud mouth breathing. People are the worst.

It’s for these reasons that I avoid the cinema, and it is with this predisposition that I rarely enter one. Again, it’s with these prejudices that I enter my discussion of a cinema experience I legitimately enjoyed.

Image result for calvary film

Brendan Gleeson is and always will be the face of a priest for me. Even before I saw him in the 2014 film Calvary, something about him was just priestly. I was really excited for this film. I love McDonaugh, I love Gleeson and I’m a sucker for depressing comedy. Lucky for me, due to a whole bunch of international limited releases, the film was already screening online. I nabbed myself a copy, locked myself away and gorged myself on the film. It was everything I was hoping for and more.

I loved it. Possibly a little too much, because before I knew what I was doing I made the commitment to see this at a cinema. The old, independent Empire cinema in my home town, Bowral, just happened to be showing it so I ventured up the mountain one day, mustering a likewise inclined friend to attend it with me.

This is where it gets interesting. I was tentative about going into the cinema. I rallied, though, and pushed through the doors. As my eyes adjusted, I was greeted by the beauty of an almost empty theater. There must have been only 6 or 8 other people in there. I was officially excited. As we walked through the aisles, taking the kings choice of seats, I assessed my fellow movie goers and they assessed me. It was a little hilarious, almost like a western of sorts. There was a lot of older couples, all well sunk into the seats. Though the movie wasn’t to start for another 5 minutes, it seemed like they had arrived days early to get the seats they wanted. We were easily the youngest people there by approximately half a century and no doubt our elders were waiting for us to start screaming ‘yolo’ while drinking vodka cruisers.

We sat down in silence. Surrounded by the grumpy, the suspicious and the apparently anti-social I felt at home. Regardless of how accurate my assumptions were, I felt that the people surrounding me were fellow film lovers dragged out of their respective natural environments and forced into the minefield that is the modern cinema by our anticipation and love for this film. We all waited for each other to ruin it for everyone else, but the ruin never came. The room eventually darkened and the film began. Afterwards, when the lights came back on, we all seemed much happier with each other. There were awkward smiles and even a brief comment about the film as we walked out. Just as the film had reached its satisfying conclusion, we had all steered our way through a possibly disastrous social outing and we were all proud of it.

Now, the actual bit that relates this to class. I was always skeptical of the cinema experience and, indeed, I still am. The bad experiences far outweigh the good, but after that screening I understood the ideal of the cinema experience. The ideal that a community, be it you and all your friends or me and a whole bunch of grumpy old people, can come together to share a space and consume the same media at the same time not just for economic or access reasons, but in an attempt to enhance the experience. The communal experience became a multiplier for the film, enhancing the cinematic event to so much more than a simple screening and it was amazing.

I saw the film once more, that time taking some family. Though not to the same level, the experience was still good. Perhaps because the room was a little fuller, perhaps because I was surrounded by people I knew more than strangers or perhaps simply because I had seem the film twice by then, I don’t know. What I do know is that I’ve been hoping for a similar experience that I doubt I will ever have again.

A tad dramatic? Yeah, but this degree is all about making shit dramatic so deal with it.

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