It is a little-known fact that when you look at the back of a movie poster you see a mirror image of the picture on the front. The same goes for how the images look when you stand behind the movie screen itself. Spend enough time in the seats of a cinema, and you will become less sure that the lives of who you see on that screen are fictitious, or perhaps you will begin to question the authenticity of your own. The self you bring into the movie house is projected in light unto the screen, mirrored or otherwise, and you cannot look away. You mustn’t.
The dark, red leather cover of her seat rub at her momentarily exposed back just above her waistline as she shifts her weight forward and props her elbows up onto the taut skin covering her knees. Sea green eyes bulge in the projected light. The mutability of those sea green eyes searching for an answer a pair of eyes somewhere offscreen. The actress with the fair, sparsely freckled skin. Her ginger hair. What is it in the eyes of a stranger that multiplies captive emotions with such fervency? What she sees on the screen, hears in the dialogue and musical compositions which accompany them, they present are as a mirror held up to history, society, and the individuals who make up the whole of humanity.
This all is just light and sound vibration and formulaic elements of story tracing back to the ancients. It this not?
The man sitting in the ticket booth would tell you the girl comes to the cinema alone. Surface observations suggests just that. She attends the screenings by herself, but she is not by any means alone. Anywhere she goes, especially to the cinema, she brings along a prison. Realities push against the bars of their temporary confinement in the recesses of her mind. They hold alms cups out from behind the bars, thrust into the aisle, clambering as a mob to master her attention. Undaunted, she struts the cement of the cellblock without turning. Imprisoned memories cannot be granted the satisfaction of a third glance. A second, perhaps, when they belong to a not-so-distant past, but the ones kept under lock and key mustn’t be granted any further satisfaction. None. She knows acknowledging one would not necessarily mean freeing it to have full reign of her faculties. They are the most of them nonviolent offenders, but their freedom poses too great a risk. What would happen if she paid heed to one of the imprisoned memories? What would happen would be that she would make eye contact with the soft, beaten down, neglected eyes of one of them and, without being able to stop herself, she would walk to the bars for a closer look. Soon she would be in the cell, speaking to the memory, hearing out its death row pleas, trying to explain why she mustn’t be there. She would ask it to be quiet, to stop petitioning the guards to pay it mind. She would try to forget the dirty, unshaven memory. She will, for a time. Eventually, a line of dialogue or the way the actor receiving that line will move his mouth idiosyncratically, and she will not be able to help but feel that uncanny premonition that the film was written about her, and the memory or one of its cellblock mates will con her into paying it heed.
It is why she comes to the cinema. She needs this. She needs the memories of someone who does not exist, people who are an invention of a person who does, brought to life by the movements and beauty and velvety voices of people she can adore from afar. How’d Aristotle call it? Catharsis.
She goes to the movies alone more than she goes with anyone else. She goes to the movies alone because it is the only place left where she can cry.