Revelations in a Cinema and an Ill-Positioned Sofa.

I saw the trailer for Park Chan Wook’s Oldboy sometime before it came out on DVD in 2003. Something I had already seen encouraged me to buy it. I remember clearly thinking “ooh, that looks like…” blank! Cannot remember what I thought this would be like. I remember one scene in particular from the trailer and it was Min-Sik Choik being thrown effortlessly across the room by intense body-guard Byeong-ok Kim. He soars and spins through the air before hitting an invisible barrier of glass which he bounces off and lands in a pile on the floor. This was the scene from the trailer which invoked some stylistic link in my head which encouraged me to buy it. It couldn’t have been a bittersweet life which would come a year later, nor Shiri which I was unaware of at the time, hell maybe it was just the matrix! Christ knows I was heavily influenced in my viewing by the matrix. The matrix incidentally could have been my revelation moment, except for how confused my little nine-year old mind was by just about everything that happened up until the lobby shoot out. True those last forty minutes rocked my little world, but it had nothing on Oldboy.

So I pick it up one Thursday afternoon and that evening I watched it. Two hours later I decide to take Friday off. I’m far too emotionally stimulated to do any kind of homework and being a gutless little worm I was unable to show up without any.

The movie had wrecked me, and was the first movie to ever do so. Trying to deconstruct why this film had such a profound effect on me is tricky. Perhaps it was the style, the subtle melancholy, the wide open spaces of Woo-Jin’s penthouse suggesting a terrible isolation unknown to Oh Dae Su as he travels from claustrophobic prison, to hot, sticky apartments suggesting such a huge emotional gap between these two men. Perhaps it was the enthralling direction of Park Chan Wook who used incredible camera work and combined practical and digital effects to make the work so incredibly visceral. Perhaps the brilliantly accomplished score, including the breath-taking “last waltz” which captures the emotional turmoil of the lead characters. How the hell do you pull off a triumphant trumpet theme and still get across how tragic our hero is at the same time. This score does it! The action set piece of the film is just as stylistically interesting as anything I had seen in the matrix, and yet grittier and more real than anything in the whole movie! Our hero is human, fragile, disturbed. He might not survive this. Maybe the honest and often brutal performances that everyone in this film gives (to be repeated by Min Sik Choik in the relentless “I saw the devil”. Maybe the arresting plot which conceals a great mystery, revealed methodically with the ever-present threat of danger to our protagonists. Perhaps it was just the tragic ambiguity of that final scene in the snow… ah yes, I had my exorcist moment. The movie watching experience which defined me a little, and set in stone my love of film.

But it didn’t happen in a cinema! It happened on a small screen in my living room, on a sofa positioned in a very uncomplimentary position in relation to the screen. So perhaps that’s the big difference between my generation and Kermode’s. Most of our movie watching is performed at home now, alone or with friends or family, usually from a torrenting site, you dicks. The first film I watched at home, which predated Aladdin by a year or two was the little mermaid and unlike Aladdin’s single scene of a tower falling over, I remember every moment of the little mermaid, and it probably affected my taste in movies and possibly women ever since (which may be a bad thing if you consider Ariel’s willingness to sacrifice her home, family and voice just for a man she barely knows is in some way sexist! If so you’re probably the kind of lefty guardian reading toss pot who thinks we shouldn’t keep women on leads anymore! What if they get lost, commie?!). Films I’ve watched at home have had a bigger impact on me and as a society we seem to be choosing the comfort of our own homes over the excitement of the giant silver screen. Are we missing out?

Perhaps not. One experience of emotional breakdown in a cinema I do remember was whilst watching the Curious Case of Benjamin Button which dealt with mortality in a rather sweet and sentimental way which really moved me. After about five minutes of holding in tears, I decided that there was little point as the strangers shouldn’t care if I cried or not. So I wept a little, the film reached its crescendo and then we all got up and filed out silently… Obviously the experience is different if you take friends, but then you’re constantly worried about other possibly disruptive audience members, including the asshole at the back who seems to find this rape scene hilarious, and the twat two rows ahead who won’t turn off his phone! Tin Tin is riding a tank through a town up on that screen. How fucking interesting could your friends possibly be?! Those two things didn’t happen in the same screening by the way. …there is no rape in Tin Tin….it’s all very much implied. Anyway, maybe all we’re really missing is a bigger screen, a better sound system and the chance to buy hotdogs.

But perhaps we are missing out! Well as a pretentious cinema attendee who likes to go three times a week, and desperately tries to encourage people to attend lest our films start to suffer. There is definitely something to be said for the cinema experience. The IMAX is sufficient to prove this point. A few weeks ago I saw the fourth Mission Impossible film at the IMAX, and the use of this massive screen to showcase the ridiculously scaled action sequences was truly breathtaking in a way that could never be accomplished on a PSP on the way to work. Only when a viewer has to physically move his head to take the whole thing is the experience truly complete. This particular experience including a six-minute prologue to the Dark Knight Rises, which spelled out for me just how difficult my orgasms are going to be until June. So I plan to balance my experiences at the cinema and at home, where the potential exists for the viewing to be significantly more personalised and enjoyable. But I do intend to raise my hypothetical future kids the right way about all this, starting with the Excorcist. When my son, and I will probably have a son as I imagine Gatacca will have happened by then, when my young Ethan Hawke is around fifteen (don’t want to wait too long or risk him half seeing it round a friend’s house whilst desperately trying to instil the virtues of Dungeons and Dragons, which will have been beaten into him some years earlier) I will take him to a screening of the Exorcist, and there are still many around. I shall sit him in the middle of the centre row, wait for it to start and then I am going to fucking leave! That should certainly move him. Not too far though, he will be tethered.

P for Parent


About Nerds Get Bored
We're Nerds, and man, do we get bored. Our Twitter: @nerdsgetbored

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