Over the weekend I watched Twelve Years a Slave. It was a good film; I wholeheartedly recommend it. I would like to be able to say I enjoyed it, but I don’t have any strong desire to make a liar out of myself. Oh no. You see, my enjoyment of the film was hampered somewhat by the person sitting in the row behind me.
My experience was a perfect storm, like the one blogger Rich Wisken experienced on an Australian Airlines flight last month, only this one involved a combination of chair squeaking, crisp-packet rustling and coughing fits of the sort that have not been heard since the Black Death spread across Europe.
Normally my tolerance for this sort of thing is quite high. Hey, I understand; some people need to cough, and occasionally the chair squeaks a little. No biggie. We all tolerate that sort of thing. But that tolerance has limits, and this person thoroughly tested those limits. To be clear, this wasn’t the aggregate of many minor grievances, scattered throughout the cinema. All of the sounds being generated were emanating from one fuckfaced individual.
Incidentally, this tolerance doesn’t extend to any other medium. Would you buy a song where someone had dubbed over their own free-jazz kazoo exploration? Would you buy a book where half of the sentences were scribbled over by some hyperactive two-year old with a crayon? That would impede your enjoyment of the product, would it not?
For those of you that can’t quite see what I’m getting at, allow me to illustrate: here’s an extract from Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying interspersed with the textual equivalent of the noises that we were all forced to endure:
When they told me she was dying, all that night I BLEEAAARRRGHGHHCHCHSSEAAAARRRGFFFFF and I emerged victorious. I woke to BAWRRGCHOOO!!!! ARRRRCCHOOO!!!! asked his guidance and received it. “Rise,” he said; squeaky squeaky squeaky to that home squeaky squeaky in which you have put squeaky lie, keehrragfgadfgidfhgdnkhd among those people with squeaky squeaky squeaky SQUEAKY ACHO EEEUUUUUWWARRRRRRRGGHH!!!!!!! confess your sin aloud. ACHO them, for that deceived husband, to forgive you; not I.”
Not quite as good as the original, is it? Or perhaps it’s an improvement. It depends on your taste.
I suppose whatever tolerance depends on the sort of film I’m watching. At this time of year, everything is high-brow. Every film has some sort of emotional content, or whatever. A film that deals with slavery, you won’t be surprised to hear, falls heavily into this category. Which means that the effect of any intrusion is magnified.
This is the sort of film, for example, that features long periods of poignant silence. These were probably meant to have some sort of emotional effect; I can’t say for sure since whenever one of these pauses occurred I spent them bracing myself for the next spasmodic fit of crisp-packet rustling.
How long is a film? Three hours seems the absolute maximum. Most films are half that. Probably less. Can you not go without eating for three hours? Is sitting still gawping at a giant screen thirsty work? I suspect I’m unconsciously regurgitating some stand-up routine, here, but that doesn’t make this observation any less valid: Why do people need to eat in the cinema?
They have the big list of rules on the wall: no phones, no noisemaking, no heavy petting, etc. All of these rules basically amount to ‘shut the fuck up!’ Or at least they should. For the most part, these cinema rules are respected, but there’s always the risk that they’ll be some twatstain there, braying like a bewildered manatee throughout the screening. Every visit to the cinema is a bloody lottery. Goddam!
Despite my chagrin, the cinema will remain another mealtime for as long as they continue to operate. The film industry is at fault for creating this ‘meal’. If they were to now introduce a flat ‘no eating’ policy, the cinema would quickly bankrupt itself; the whole enterprise sits atop the profits reaped from the overpriced tortillas/soft drinks they peddle in the foyer. Were everyone to simultaneously stop buying cinema food, then Hollywood would disintegrate overnight.
Anyway. Another service this person provided was occasional commentary, mostly when something traumatising was happening onscreen. “Fuck!” “Shit!” “That’s bad!” My girlfriend – having endured the super-extended director’s cut edition of this blog on the car ride home – related to me another instance of this: when we went to see Gravity, and Sandra Bullock was (spoiler alert) sent careening off into space, someone made a similar pronouncement. “Oh no!” said they “That’s bad!”
I can only assume that some people – cripplingly stupid people – feel the need to narrate what’s going on in front of them, otherwise they’ll simply forget what’s happening. The information will fall out of their brains. “Is being thrown into space a good or a bad thing?” they ponder “I can’t quite fathom it; I should make a mental note, or, better yet, a verbal one.” What are you going to do about those people? Should we have some form of crude entrance examination? A comprehension test for everyone hoping to buy a cinema ticket?
Perhaps the answer is to only go to see films that feature one-liners, explosions and alien robots that simulate sex acts on one another. Fuck all of this ‘good’ cinema. But then, were this solution widely adopted, it would mean that only terrible films make any money. Shit, maybe this has already happened. Perhaps those that enjoy ‘good’ films have deserted the cinema, preferring instead to wait for the BluRay, or – more likely – pirate the film. Perhaps that’s why people flock to toward the latest Michael Bay offering: the more terrible the film the less chance there is that someone will ruin it for you. Perhaps people actually hope that someone will interrupt the film with some involuntary bowel movement or whatever, thereby improving their experience of Transformer’s 5: Megatron’s Colonoscopy tenfold. Perhaps I should follow suit.
You might be reading these complaints thinking that they’re not particularly original. Yes, we’re all familiar with this bullshit. I’m sure there are thousands of blogs already written on the subject, and thousands yet to come. Which leads me to believe there is no solution to this problem. If there were one, it would surely have been discovered by now.
But my solution would be a members only cinema. Do they have those? Where anyone caught with a crisp packet is banned for life and blacklisted from every cinema within a five-hundred mile radius – or better yet, dismembered by a patrolling ED-209. I’d happily frequent such an establishment. I’d happily pay an enormous premium to do so. I’m dead serious. I like watching films, and – at the risk of sounding snobbish – I like watching them in places free from dribbling troglodytes.
Until next week, by which time my teeth will undoubtedly have ground one another into fleshy stumps.