One of the unpleasant aspects of cinema is its passivity. The movie is blasted at you, and there’s nothing to do. You don’t have enough room to move, enough light to read, or enough quiet to carry on a conversation. Alcohol — even a harmless beer — will be confiscated. Food is available, but little that appeals to adults.
There are a number of gambits you can use if you do happen to find yourself trapped in a theatre. One, of course, is to sleep. In the classic radio show “Vic and Sade,” the writer, Paul Rhymer, has Vic defend the practice to Sade: “I had a good time. My dreams were pleasantly embroidered with the speeches of the people talkin’ on the screen. ‘I adore you, Everett.’ ‘Try to understand, mother, that I can’t live without Cynthia.’ ‘Hands off that girl, Bernard Breen, or I’ll forget you only got one leg.’ The theatre was dark, my chair was comfortable, an’ the sweet breezes from electric fans bombarded me deliciously. I got value for my twenty-five cents.”
Another technique was suggested by Robert Benchley, in the essay “Block That Plot!”, from his collection After 1903 –What?: “In order to play the game it is necessary to come into the theatre in the middle of the picture… The idea is to take a quick look at the characters on the screen, listen to what they are saying, and reconstruct what has gone before, along the most improbable lines… You’d be surprised how often it works out to make sense. At least, it keeps you guessing.”
Following these examples, I have some potentially useful suggestions for ludic interaction with the dialogue.
You could, for example, feign paranoia, and take each line as a personal message to you from God, or from some cartel of conspirators. Along similar lines, you could imitate the remarkable Louis Wolfson, whose mental illness made him so hate his “mother tongue” that he had to translate all English words that he heard into cognate forms in other languages. Or, you could adapt the exercise in Aleister Crowley’s LIBER III vel Jugorum, and slash your forearm with a razor whenever you hear the word “I” (or another word of your choosing). This has nothing to do with Crowley’s original purpose, but will help to pass the time.
Devotees of General Semantics might also try de-Aristotlizing the dialogue by suppressing the verb “to be,” and rephrasing it all subjectively — silently, of course, so as not to wake your neighbors.
You could also work your visual imagination by picturing to yourself what the scene would look like if all the actors were fifty years older, or bears, or robots; or what might happen if a small pig trotted across the set, or ice crashed through the ceiling, or one of the actors started yawning uncontrollably.
I hope these ideas will be useful in your hour of need; best of luck.
(Posted by Doug Skinner)