Lights out

Yesterday, after many months, I watched a movie at the Cinema Quadrat, Mannheim.

The hall, tucked in a corner of a large office-cum residential complex, screens foreign-language art films. There are probably seventy to eighty seats in all, but I’ve never seen more than ten to fifteen people on any occasion I’ve been there.  Often people come alone.  A reminder that there still exist people who go to the movies to watch, not to socialize.

The lobby next to the ticket counter always seems like a set from the Seventies; this time there was a Klaus Kinski poster on the wall.  The place was empty when I entered. A minute later a short blonde girl exited the projector room and came behind the counter.

Bin ich zu früh?” I asked. Am I too early.

Nein, nein. Möchten Sie eine Karte?”  Not at all. Do you want a ticket?

Ja, bitte.” Yes, please.

The ticket cost 6 Euros, half the price of a mainstream movie ticket in a multiplex. I picked up a drink and sat at one of the tables. Among the leaflets advertising movies and cultural events was a magazine dedicated to gay movies. I shook my head in disbelief as I leafed through it: I’d never have thought such an active gay movie subculture existed.

Soon there were others in the lobby: members of a movie club discussing a recent viewing; a young couple talking with the projectionist about future screenings; a couple of solitary men, hanging around.  At 19:30 the projectionist walked into his room. We took the cue and entered the hall.

Lights out. The reel started rolling. The whirr of the projector, right behind my ears, signaled our entry into another world. This sound will probably be heard no more about a decade from now, when movie making goes fully digital.

There were no advertisements. The trailers – snippets of the movie stitched together in no particular order – lacked the polish of mainstream trailers: they appeared more authentic, closer to what the movie itself would turn out to be.

Time for the movie. Brand upon the Brain, by Guy Maddin.  Mostly silent. In Black and White. Surreal and mesmerizing. Hilarious.

Art films can be fun too – watch it if you get a chance.

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