Remember the days when you walked into a cinema hall with no clue about the film that’s playing, completely surrendered to it, were genuinely surprised by the twists and turns and made up your mind about it only after it was done.
Those were the best days for cinema. Films were waiting to be discovered first-hand by you.
Look around and you will see how things have changed today. People no longer watch a movie alone or with an open mind. Nor do they have the patience to wait for the storyteller to finish telling the story, thanks to the mobile phone, Internet connectivity, the baggage of online hype, the discussions on social media well before the film releases in our part of the world, early reviews and worse, spoilers.
Even assuming people missed all of this miraculously, they are tempted to Wiki it just because they walked in five minutes late. You can catch a film today from any point because the Internet could tell you what happened in the first few minutes. Or you can ping a friend on Whatsapp to check.
The mystery of cinema is being eroded slowly and steadily by technology and the need to stay wired in the cinema hall. There is so much information available that you know what to expect right from the start. IMDB will give you an aggregate rating of the film, Wikipedia the plot, social media all the spoilers.
There’s so much analysis, discussion and dissection that’s happening much ahead of your actual viewing and some during the viewing that’s robbing you of the surprises. Add live-tweeting to the mix and the live minute-by-minute deconstruction of the film is complete.
It’s a huge shift in paradigm that is changing criticism in the country as more and more critics begin to judge the film as they are watching it and not after it’s over. The need to express what you feel during the film is superseding the ability to listen or pay attention to the storyteller.
It is the equivalent of standing behind an artist and watching him paint and commenting on every stroke before the painting is done because of all the things you have heard about this painting in advance. You already know whether the painting is 7/10 or 8/10 (can it really be rated is an entirely different discussion), you know what he’s going to paint and you have all the tools for deconstructing the painting and the freedom to do it at your fingertips. So you lose yourself in the paint, rather than wait for the painting to emerge. You lose the forest for the trees. The vastra haran (stripping) of art is complete.
I watched Transcendence last week with absolutely no clue of what to expect. I had not seen any promos, read any interviews or reviews. And luckily, I don’t think anyone live-tweeted or discussed this too much online. This was rare for me also because it was holiday viewing. I wasn’t planning to review it.
I caught it on IMAX, the format the filmmaker wanted us to watch it in. Not only was I surprised, I was blown away by the craft. Yes, I did compare Dr. Will Caster to Dr. Vaseegaran (Rajinikanth in Enthiran) and amused myself telling my friend that Depp would soon become evil Chitti. I did ponder over what Enthiran could have been and drew parallels between the films as I was watching it. I did chuckle about how this was Spike Jonze’s Her done as an action film: Johnny Depp as Him. God.
Yet, it was a special experience because I went in with absolutely no baggage of information, hype or opinions. I hadn’t succumbed to the temptation to checking my phone. And I waited till the end credits to figure out if I actually did like the movie or not.
The tragic part, however, is that if you happen to be reading this ahead or during the film, I may have ruined Transcendence for you.