Reclaiming that innocent and hopeful place

TheaterHeader

The movie theatre is my home, and the idea that someone would violate that innocent and hopeful place in such an unbearably savage way is devastating to me.

– Christopher Nolan

I saw The Dark Knight Rises approximately 24 hours after the tragedy that occurred in Aurora, Colorado. I didn’t think twice when I purchased the tickets, even though I had heard about it all the way to work that Friday morning. It wasn’t until a security guard entered the theatre right after the house lights had dimmed and checked the emergency exits that I found my eyes and mind wandering. I scanned those same exits. I looked at the folks around me, especially those who had gotten up to leave. Returning with no concessions or evidence of purpose only sent my imagination off. I had to decide whether or not person X was likely to commit a violent act. Surely that old man here with his wife wouldn’t brandish a weapon? That group of guys? That mother of three?

Part of me was embarrassed that any of it had even crossed my mind. Aurora’s Cinema 16 security was not prepared for such a random act of violence precisely because it was unthinkable. To my knowledge, nothing like it had ever happened before. The last time I can recall any violence linked to a movie screening was in the early 90’s after the release of New Jack City. I confess to being ignorant as to whether or not any gun violence actually took place (mostly fights, if memory serves), but I feel confident in saying that no one was shot IN a theatre, and certainly not over 50 people. But yes, it has happened now and we tell ourselves we must do something so it can never happen again.

But we do not live in the world of Minority Report. We can’t predict individual acts of violence. We can only react. There isn’t a place we can go that will be completely and absolutely safe, but there are places where violence is far less likely to occur. The movie theatre should be one of them. I believe that it still is.

Time will tell, of course. This appears, so far, to have been the act of a lone and probably unbalanced individual. There will always be crazies. There will always be acts of random violence in public places. Are we to live in fear? Are we to walk out of our front doors every day expecting the worst? Of course not. But we feel the need to react. There must be something, anything that can be done.

I must admit to being pleased that the result hasn’t been a return to the argument that the film itself was responsible for inciting violence. We know that to be at best a gross oversimplification. Films themselves are reactions to the human experience. They hold up a mirror. It may be wiser to look at America’s appetite for violence. Violent films are made because they make money. A violent culture, or at least a culture with a taste for consuming violent images, leads to violent films, not the other way around.

There were more than a few scenes in The Dark Knight Rises that made my wife shield her eyes, all involving guns. I looked for her reaction because I was affected as well. But I did settle a bit as the film continued. I cannot pinpoint when, specifically, but I know that I eventually did what I had come to do — I watched a movie. And though the Aurora tragedy never fully left my mind, I was able to push it into the background. My hope is that in the future other moviegoers will be able to do the same, their fear dimming with the theatre lights, not forgotten, but not triumphant either.

Kevin Mattison is co-editor of The Idler, and a filmmaker and videographer. You can follow him on Twitter at @kmmattison.

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