February 14, 2022 Essays on Film

In strained, testing, times memory seems to cast our earlier experiences of cinema in an idyllic light, filtering it with an amber glow, a golden tinge, soft Spielbergian orange.   


As a teenager in the 1990s, my family and I resided in a small, semi-rural town on the outskirts of Melbourne: Pakenham. At that time the closest cinema complex was almost an hour’s commute: Dandenong Village Cinemas. A visit to the movies was, therefore, a pilgrimage, a hallowed ritual planned well in advance of actually arriving at the megaplex, purchasing tickets, and entering the theatre. This nervous anticipation had been stoked at other times, in other places, via other platforms: television, print, word-of-mouth. Film trailers that played on prime-time television, posters plastered across the pages of periodicals, juicy juvenile film gossip that circulated in secondary school classrooms and corridors — these were the sources of film screenings; they piqued your interest and lured you in. 


What I remember from that era is an immersive, multisensory cinematic experience: the inviting aroma of hot-buttered popcorn, its blistering saltiness on the lips, the stickiness of chocolate candy on adhesive fingers, the scene-disrupting sound of slurping soda, the 3D protrusions of Freddy Krueger’s body parts on the silver screen. Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Batman Returns, Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, Jurassic Park. Blockbuster Hollywood fare at its skin-crawling, hair-raising, jaw-dropping finest. Time-travelling cyborgs. Intelligent dinosaurs. Savvy, subterranean mutants. Ghastly, sleep-assailing spirits. These were films where Homo sapiens were forced to confront their myriad Others: machinic, oneiric, reptilian, anthropomorphic. Posthuman cinema.

And yet, despite their eye-watering special effects, tympanum-piercing sound, and stratospheric celebrities there was something lacking, some internal limitation that had to be replenished by other sources: the movie-themed value meal at a popular family franchise, the cornucopia of paraphernalia that accompanied the film’s release (clothing, collectibles, gaming consoles, confectionary). It was as if we needed these supplements to compensate for the fleeting experience of moviegoing, to flesh out the spectral nature of the motion picture with tactile, edible, aromatic accoutrements; tangible mementos that somehow made up for the selective framing of perception and the cruel editing of forgetting.

For an adolescent aficionado in a pre-Corona climate, a screening was never enough; the film had to be inhaled and ingested, handled and played, adorned and tattooed (lickety-spit) on the body.

Dr. Varga Hosseini