Friday, September 7, 2012

In soft darkness

There is a seat in IFI Screen 2 that I like to call my own. Nobody else knows this. If you see me standing politely in the queue, things are not what they seem. In my head, I am strategizing how I am going to beat you to this chair. The doors will open and you will see me taking the stairs in quick strides. I will accelerate as I go into that room with its unique ox-bow seating. And I will pounce upon that chair as cinemagoers stand about in indecision. I have never fought anyone to sit there. But let it be known — if you get to my seat before me — I may fight you for it. 

IFI Cinema 2

No matter where I have sat in the IFI over the years, I always remember not just the film but the seat. The point of view it offers in that dark, its relation to the walls of the room, the person sitting beside me — all of these things build into the film. 

I remember where I was seated in Screen 2 for a press screening of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. And I can recall, too, where I was seated in Screen 1 when I watched it again — underneath that magical door by the ceiling — and wept all the way through it like a sinner. I was plumped about three rows behind a decade earlier when I saw a black-and-white indie called Pi by some chap called Darren Aronofsky, and came out of that dark with a religious conversion. 

IFI Cinema 1

With shame I recall the seat in Screen 2 I fell asleep in during Wong Kar Wai’s 2046. Naturally, I was seated in my MY seat during Ingmar Bergman’s epic Fanny and Alexander, though this didn’t help, when, 10 minutes into the 188-minute film, I realized I needed to pee. I sat the film out like a penitent on a bus journey. 

In the new Screen 3, with its seats slunk low, I recall with clarity the seat where I watched Béla Tarr’s impossibly slow, 146-minute long The Turin Horse with a raging hangover. The person beside me can remember where they were seated, too, as they spent the entire film asleep. 

And what about that seat, centre-middle-left in Screen 1, where I watched Martin Scorsese’s 246-minute history of Italian cinema, My Voyage to Italy. I can recall in exquisite detail the dolt who was seated beside me explaining OUT LOUD the entire film to his foreign girlfriend. He was shushed several times. Finally I tapped him on the arm and asked him to be quiet. He exclaimed: “there’s no need to be so rude”. If that guy ever tries to sit in my seat, he’s really going to get it. 

Paul Lynch
Writer and film critic

Celebrating 20 years at our premises on Eustace Street in Temple Bar, join us for a host of special events, screenings, previews, tours (many of them free!) and the IFI Open Weekend in September - see full IFI20 Schedule online or follow our updates on Twitter via #IFI20

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