How do you watch films at home these days?
This may sound a bit weird to some, but I’m a film lover and always watch the whole movie from the beginning to the very end without chatting on the phone or switching off to continue my viewing at a later time. The curtains are drawn, the lights are switched off, the surround sound is turned up, and the answerphone silently picks up any calls during the film. The only things that might alter this scenario is someone calling at the door, or something unexpected occurring like a gas explosion or heart attack.
I’ve always enjoyed films and television dramas in this way and I ask the above question because I realise it’s no longer the norm. I love seeing how the director sets everything out and tells the story. God only knows how these directors must feel when their works are shown on television, with adverts stuffed in at intervals to destroy any build of dramatic tension and the ending cut short to allow someone to talk glibly over the credits. They often shove in ten minutes of news and previews of completely unrelated programmes before returning for the final thirty minutes of film. Superb television dramas such as Line of Duty and Homeland get the same treatment. The heroine dies in her lover’s arms and a carefully chosen piece of sad music plays over the end credits, but this is spoken over and the words are scrunched up and rendered unreadable as some twat rattles on about the Graham Norton show coming up next, or what they’re showing next Thursday.
I suppose this irritates me because I love films so much, but few seem to share my views. The other day I was reading the Facebook posts of someone who had never seen the Wicker Man. He’d acquired the DVD and was posting on his phone in real time as he watched…
‘Mmmh, ten minutes in and I don’t know what to think yet…’
‘Things are hotting up now and it’s getting quite gripping…’
That’s good to hear, but obviously not gripping enough to prevent you chatting to everyone on social media as you half-watch.
People do this kind of thing on Facebook all the time…
‘I’m watching Shutter Island here and I’m not really sure what’s going on, lol…’
Something that certainly ISN’T going on is concentration.
Another Facebook friend was recently watching (and posting all the way through) the last episode of Sherlock, a series of stories that are often a little more complex that Geordie Shores. At the end he claimed he hadn’t understood it and thought it was complicated shit, just like the other episodes he’d seen.
The idea of turning from the onscreen drama to text on the phone or chat about last Saturday’s football is really bizarre to me, but am I in the fuddy-duddy minority? Perhaps this is how things are evolving and directors will have to work around it. Maybe they could learn from the news channels and incorporate a changing scroll along the bottom of the screen with a round-up of the plot points. They could also use the scroll to remind viewers about who the various characters are. ‘The man in the blue suit is Alec Hardy, the detective in charge of the murder case’. People who cared about what they were watching could then read this between texting and get a vague sense of what was going on.
During my time in the fire service, we’d always watch films or series such as the Sopranos late at night when the work was over, but in the last few years the viewing habits of my colleagues changed. Many would hold phones in their hands as they sat in front of the television and the majority were only half-watching as they gazed at their mobile screens.
‘Why does he want to kill him?’
‘Don’t you remember? He’s an FBI informer.’
‘Eh? Which one?’
This isn’t a criticism, but a simple observation of how things have dramatically changed. Most people now watch television at home with a phone clasped in their hand, or certainly within reach. I normally hold a glass of spirit with ice and I’ve never looked upon that as odd, so maybe I need to move with the times.
When I was a kid, the local cinemas showed films on a loop and you could watch them as many times as you liked. If you missed the first fifteen minutes, you could hang back and watch it after the end. I always found this really odd, but nowhere near as odd as the people of today who still miss the start, even though the cinemas now charge around twenty quid (or thirty if you happen to have a sweet tooth).
‘Oh, it doesn’t matter; you can always pick up the story’ is their excuse.
I even knew a guy who left the cinema for ten minutes to nip out to a nearby shop when he remembered he’d forgotten to buy a lottery ticket.
Am I in a dying minority of film fans who actually WATCH the film? It could be me, of course. After all, most people are capable of tweeting and talking on Facebook whilst driving, so they should certainly be able to do this whilst watching a film.