I don’t generally blog twice a day, but I’ve just seen Travis Holland’s blog on this week’s topic, in which he raises the idea of cinemas as strange places, perhaps unintentionally. As he says in his comments — he really just meant places where strangers meet.
But he’s got me thinking about something fundamentally strange about all places, in relation to time. That is, all places are haunted by things that have happened in them previously, or will happen there in the future.
So we can certainly think of cinemas as strangely haunted places.
Here’s a quote from a book that seems to get at this, American writer Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer, from 1960.
Before I see a movie it is necessary for me to learn something about the theatre or the people who operate it, to touch base before going inside. … If I did not talk to the theatre owner or the ticket seller, I should be lost, cut loose metaphysically speaking. I should be seeing one copy of a film which might be shown anywhere and at any time. There is a danger of slipping clear out of space and time. It is possible to become a ghost and not know whether one is in downtown Loews in Denver or suburban Bijou in Jacksonville. So it was with me.
Yet it was here in the Tivoli that I first discovered place and time, tasted it like okra. It was during a re-release of Red River a couple of years ago that I became aware of the first faint stirrings of curiosity about the particular seat I sat in, the lady in the ticket booth. As Montgomery Clift was whipping John Wayne in a fist fight, an absurd scene, I made a mark on my seat arm with my thumbnail. Where, I wondered, will this particular piece of wood be twenty years from now, 543 years from now?
What traces of ourselves do we leave in media spaces, or spaces like cinemas, that come back to haunt us?
I was once given access to the old balcony of the Kings Theatre in Bega, which is now a furniture store. Sitting above the sofas and tables were the original balcony chairs, and I thought of all the stories of people’s time at the moments, somehow silently preserved by these chairs.
Watch these guys explore an abandoned movie theatre, but you’ll have to wait right to the end to see how they react to the theatre itself. It’s lovely.
Worth thinking about.