Popcorn Movies – Sometimes it’s not OK
Ironically, film festival audiences are the worst.
You’d think those who come out of the woodwork every winter to watch the best foreign, arthouse and documentary fare the filmmaking world has to offer would have more couth. But no – they pour into the cinema as the five-minute bell tings, laden with ice-creams, popcorn and the slightly musty smell of people who have rushed from overpriced carpark to theatre doorway. Overexcited at the prospect of going to the movies “in the daytime!” they stock up on snacks like it’s a once a year birthday treat. Then, chattering through the Festival promo and often into the film’s opening credits (behaviour which warrants a whole other post), they rip open the wrappers and settle in to be entertained.
Of course, there is a time and a place for entertainment. But a documentary about bullying, where the young victims take their own lives and the survivors recount horrific stories, is surely not it. Nor is a Palme D’Or winning film about an elderly couple’s gentle, moving decline towards death. You can chomp your way through the Avengers in 3D Imax all you like, but please show some respect for the subject matter in your choice of sustenance.
I know, I take a hard line. A critic friend disagrees with my black and white, no-strikes-and-I’m-moving-seats intolerance. But to me it signals a lack of appreciation of what we’re about to see, nevermind complete ignorance of how one’s infernal rustling might distract or disturb fellow audience members. It’s not like they didn’t read the film’s blurb and know what the film would be about! Just because we now associate Going to the Movies with Buying Food and Drink We Could Have Got Cheaper at the Supermarket, people seem to go the whole hog while simultaneously complaining about the exhorbitant price of a cinema jaunt. Novel solution: eat before you leave home.
I had a smart-looking, middle-aged woman (ie. should know better) bring Burger King into a recent Danish movie, so I put my companion between the offender and me, even though it meant that I (there to review the film and thus deserving of a centred seat!) had to sit up the wall. I have emitted countless hissed shushes into the unhearing darkness; leaned forward and glared along the row at crisp-bag crinklers and Coke-slurpers. Occasionally I ask nicely in a conspiratorial tone “Have you nearly finished?” Sometimes I am so outraged I cannot lose myself in the film and end up giving it 1 and a half stars (though I stand by my view that Arbitrage was absolute rubbish regardless of the counterpoint of zip-opening and bag-rustling that formed its soundtrack).
If only viewers calculated their chewing to coincide with the car chases and fight scenes, we might get to fully immerse ourselves in the poignancy of sad moments, the whispered endearments, the startling revelations in plot. But I fear my plea will only fall on ears deafened by all that vigourous mastication.
Perhaps it’s because the cinema is my second home; more likely it is because I am unfailingly sensitive to others and thus a model movie-goer – but, simply put, if everyone thought like I do there would be a lot less sweeping up afterwards.