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A Movie Night, the Night After

There used to be nothing special about going to the movies on a Sunday night. After all, it was such a perfect time to catch up with the latest big Hollywood productions. The lazy last night of the weekend was just the perfect time to do that: slow and unassuming, the late Sunday night show at our local theater would usually attract few people. Most of the audience would consist of couples just like us: too busy to go on a school night, and too averse to big crowds to attempt squeezing in on a Friday or Saturday. We used to stroll through sleepy streets of our neighborhood and come at the last minute, just early enough to see a few hangover teenagers at the concession stand, one or two couples lined at the box office, perhaps a single family parading down the hall with their buckets and strollers. The shabby screening room awaited us somewhere at the end of a long, dusty corridor, still smelling of late Eighties and old popcorn. There was no drama and no rush as we made way to take our seats, just quiet anticipation, chitchat in low voices, occasional rattle of noisy plastic chip bags. Everyone would be sitting there, relaxed, waiting casually and carelessly for the movie to begin.

There used to be nothing special about the expression all of us tended to use sometimes: I am dying to see this film. It was, after all, just an exaggerated figure of speech, meant to express one’s unusual excitement. Nobody would consider anything wrong possibly happening to them when they go to the movies. The worst that could happen was a power failure that would prevent us from enjoying the current blockbuster – and even then, the tickets would be refunded, the theatre manager would come down and apologize to all, the gift certificates or free concessions would be promptly issued, no harm would be done other than a bit of soda spilled on the carpet as the audience members rushed towards the door. The movie theatre was as safe and familiar as your own living room -- just bigger, cooler and dimly lit by red “Exit” signs. You would bring your friends and your kids and your snacks. You would sit back, politely silence your cell phone and enjoy the show.

All of this is gone now, and we don’t know if for good. Since last Friday night, the experience of moviegoing all of the sudden is associated with police cars parked up front, and officers in plainclothes inspecting all arriving parties with professional contempt, and bathrooms locked during the show, and flashlights lit suddenly in the darkened room as dark silhouettes move up and down the aisle in search for suspicious activity. Of course the reason is big enough: in a small town in Colorado, people like us in a theater like ours were dying to see the new Batman movie and their innocent wish has cost them their lives.

I doubt it will ever become more comprehensible than it is now, less than a week after what happened in Aurora. I doubt any diligent investigations and most carefully conducted due process will ever bring us closer to understanding why. I doubt there is anything left to say more than what has been said already. None of it makes the horror less real, none of it brings the dead back to life – and sadly enough, as it was the case with other mass murders committed with the use of assault weapons, no one is going to change their minds about what seems to be the deepest underlying cause of what has transpired. I don’t know how to discuss this anymore without angrily raising my voice. All I know is the experience of going to see Dark Knight Rising was one of the most bizarre ones in my living memory -- and describing it in words is an uneasy task.

It was quiet enough before the lights went down, with all the usual dances transpiring on the floor – couples embracing, buddies chuckling, popcorn cracking, and cell phone screens glowing in the dim screening room. We just sat there, in the sixth or seventh row, in a theater unusually full by Sunday night standards. Everyone seemed as careless and relaxed as moviegoers usually are. It got darker, the chatter stopped, the previews began – all the usual stuff.

It got uneasy about ten minutes in, when one of the trailers from the night’s selection started – the film was titled Gangster Squat, if I remember correctly; it promises to be an action flick, set in the Prohibition era, with a stellar cast and beautifully stylized prewar sceneries, washed in a golden light. But there was a scene in the preview that brought all quiet conversations in the room to an abrupt stop, and ever since there was something in the air, something dark and suffocating but never fully revealed. As we are explained in the first part of this preview, the outlaw policemen are to conduct a brave mission in a movie theater; there’s much preparation and much tough talk. And then a group of armed men is shown, in the gleam of cinematic Roaring Twenties, as the fire endless rounds of ammo from behind the movie screen into the darkness behind it. The audience part of the room was never shown: no victims, no blood, no screams, no smoke -- all we saw was the gunners and holes in the white canvas before them, and rays of light bursting out as they keep firing and firing and firing. Brief and beautifully filmed as it seemed, it was just painful to watch.

But the action went on, as more comedies and action flicks and stylish dramas were advertised; then the room went totally dark and the main attraction started. From the first seconds I still trying to convince myself it will be just another movie night: two to three hours of easy mass entertainment, men in capes and tights, cartoonish violence, absurd plot devices, nothing to it. But it wasn’t business as usual. It just wasn’t. When we got about twenty minutes into the screening, it was finally crystal clear to me. My heart was racing, my palms were sweating as I was watching aerial kidnapping scene: the last scene of that Aurora screening. This silly, over-the-top action scene that defies laws of physics playing right there on the screen, was just impossible to endure when the thought I was trying to suppress with all my might finally came to the surface and made itself clear: so this is it; this is where it ended for them.

It was so intense that for a brief moment I thought I should get up and leave, but somehow I couldn’t. I sat through this scene, trembling, and through many more that came thereafter. It was a long movie, and not really worth discussing here. The show ended late, at almost 2 a.m., and we slowly walked home through empty streets into the humid Sunday night. And although the story left us rather disappointed, there was something that my husband said that really made my day. It felt good to see all these people come out like we did, he said. It almost felt like we had to. If we just stop going to the movies because of what happened, then this sick psycho f#$%er really wins.

czwartek, 26 lipca 2012, bigapple1

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2013/04/03 20:09:34
interessing post ;)
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2013/06/21 11:52:03
nice blog, hope to see more from you
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2013/08/04 23:26:34
Very interesting blog. I should read it more often !
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