A few weeks back, you went to see The Artist. It was a Monday evening, and you were alone, as you often are. On that night, however, solitude followed you into the theater, and it was in her company that you eschewed the pre-show calls to silence cell phones with an ungentlemanly gesture at the screen.
You also said, in full voice, because you could, “It doesn’t matter! I’m the only one in the theater!”
But you turned your phone off anyway.
What you were expecting when the lights dimmed is still not exactly clear, but the cinematic experience that unfolded over the next 100 minutes was unprecedented. Two realizations in particular remain with you.
The first is that despite being a lifelong fan of silent films, you had never seen one on the big screen until that night. The same was probably the case with most modern audiences who screened the picture; their exposure to Hollywood’s silent era likely came from watching on a television. The scale made all the difference. Nuance and subtlety were enhanced and the smallest moments were that much more powerful. In a room equipped to deliver multi-dimensional sound, the images took center stage.
In the absence of other audience members, themselves a chorus of crunching, slurping, and other fidgeting, the only sound (other than your sobs) was the musical score of the film. You might have forgotten that you were in a Cineplex had you not been reminded by the faint booms from the adjacent theaters. You were, after all, in a temple of Bruckheimer and Bay. While neighboring explosions rattled the chests and squeezed the heads of fellow moviegoers, the concrete walls did their best to rebuff any impingement on your cocoon of silence. For that 100 minutes, you existed somewhere in the awkward intersection of art, entertainment, and history.