Isolation has made me miss many things. I miss going to the grocery store when time wasn’t so constrained, allowing myself time to pick the right kind of pasta; I miss walking around bookstores for hours, sitting to read the first few pages of each book that piqued my interest; I miss hugging my friends. But I don’t think I miss anything more than going to the movies.
Ever since I was young, film has provided an escape for me. Whether it was to tune out the violence I was exposed to as a child, or to just watch Lucy Liu kick some ass, movies have always allowed me to get sucked into a world that wasn’t my own. I don’t believe there’s a “right” way to consume film—I watched The Irishman on my phone, sorry!—but there’s nothing as enveloping as watching a film in a theater. Virtual watch parties will never be able to capture the same feeling a movie provides when it’s seen on the big screen.
It’s an intimate thing, watching a film in the dark with complete strangers. Watching someone else’s life unfolding in front of your eyes. Sometimes the secrets we see displayed on the screen mirror the ones we keep in our own lives—ones of love, passion, desire. It’s quite intoxicating that the people on screen don’t know we’re watching them. The art of voyeurism is a slippery one: people-watching is fun, and I know some people who make up fake lives for the people they watch, but there’s nothing like watching a life unfold in front of you. A life which, more often than not, begs to be seen.
One of the last films I saw in theaters was Leigh Whannell’s The Invisible Man. It’s a stellar example of something that begs to be seen in a cinema, with its immersive camera work and stunts, but it’s the sound work that’s most striking. Benjamin Wallfisch’s score features an overwhelming bass that oozes in and out of the foreground, striking fear and emotion in the viewer. I recently rewatched the film at home, and while I still enjoyed it, all of the aspects that felt “revolutionary” were muddled down when they weren’t played in a theater. My laptop speakers did no justice to the score. The audience’s gasps and whispers couldn’t be replicated.
I think that’s what I miss the most about the movies: the community found in the cinema. My best friend knew the only thing that could get my mind off of personal struggles or the impending weight of uni work was a movie and a discussion about it over a long car ride. It never mattered whether the film was good or not—simply getting to see a story that wasn’t my own play out in front of me for two hours allowed me to get out of my own head and dive into someone else’s. That effect and experience has been lost on me for months now.
I yearn for the cinema the same way I would imagine someone yearns for love. I daydream of sitting in a cold, dark theater, perhaps among friends and perhaps not, the glow of the screen reflected in my glasses. I want to hear the music of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross exploding from the speakers again. I dream of seeing the world the way Roger Deakins sees it, even if for just a fraction of my life. Most of all, I long for the chatter that comes after the film is over, the groups of moviegoers whispering whether they liked it or not, talking to people they’ve never met about the experience they all just shared with each other.
This time in which the moviegoing experience hangs in limbo isn’t forever, and I must remind myself of that. In the future, I will get to walk around the bookstore aimlessly, I’ll get to hug my friends again, and the movie theaters will reopen. Eventually, my best friend will be able to call me and ask, “Hey, wanna go see that new horror movie tonight?” and I will drop everything I had planned. I look forward to the day I get to see the newest Denis Villenueve or Alex Garland feature. Movie theaters have provided a home for me, and I can’t wait until we’re able to connect again, like old friends.
By Kaiya Shunyata