I am the kind of person that sets aside multiple days of the week to go see a movie at the cinema. Even the process of getting the ticket at the booth and buying myself something warm to drink makes me feel happy and full. As a result of my upbringing, the cinema has a very important and almost romanticized space in my life. My connection to movies started out thanks to my older cousin, who would take me with her to see Oscar nominated movies at midnight. This became our way of bonding, and introduced me to the wonderful world of cinema at a very young age.
My love for it is not confined to just seeing the movie itself, but to the whole experience. The sight of a movie theatre brings back so many wonderful memories that it has the most positive and wholesome of connotations in my head. January and February months were always specifically busy for me, as I made it a habit to see all the Oscar-nominated movies more than once, so that I could have a proper opinion on them. This came in handy when I watched the Oscar ceremony at 3 a.m. with friends, Istanbul time. My arrival to London two years ago was a wonderful period for me. Though I had the opportunity to indulge in different movies back home, the variety shown in theatres was different from London’s programme. I was able to see all the famous, most talked about Hollywood movies instantly, but independent and international films were harder to access. As theatres based the movies they showed on whether or not the general public would be inclined to see them, they tended to favour big Hollywood movies over smaller, independent ones. This is why in my first year of university, I made sure to see almost every movie that would interest me at the theatre, making use of the student discounts and free viewings at Curzon and Picturehouse Cinemas. I remember feeling extremely lucky to have seen Jonah Hill’s ‘mid 90s’ in London, as I knew that it would not be shown back home, and I probably would not have discovered it. The movie left me feeling so fulfilled that I saw it three times at the theatre, something I would not have been able to experience at home.
Image Credit: Toronto Film Festival
Coronavirus marked the first time where I didn’t have easy access to these experiences. As everything started shutting down in March, and I was in London on my own trying to find something to keep myself busy, I counted on the movie theatres to help me maintain a routine amidst the chaos. Inevitably though, they had to close down as well. This forced me to find proper streaming platforms other than Netflix which, though harbouring a wide variety of movies and series, did not satisfy my specific interests. I soon found that it did not really have what I was looking for, even though originals such as ‘A Sun’, ‘37 Seconds’ and ‘Shirkers’ introduced me to new voices in Asian cinema. I never say no to a ‘Clueless’ night, and often indulge in movies like ‘Mean Girls’ or ‘Superbad’, but independent and international movies make me feel a different type of way, reason for which I always strive to find new auteurs and directors in that area.
The darkest of times that I had during quarantine – boredom brought about by isolation, the flooding of bad memories and thoughts as a result of it – was lightened up by my re-discovery of MUBI. I was already fond of MUBI, a streaming platform where a new movie is introduced every day, but lockdown made me become really familiar with the platform. For a while, I watched every single movie released, tackling scenarios and themes that I usually would not go for, such as horror and vengeance. I discovered Argentinian, Greek and Brazilian cinema, and became a fan of vengeance movies. The biggest thing that MUBI gave me was my discovery of Park Chan-wook’s Vengeance trilogy, of which I had only watched ‘Oldboy’. I watched Lady Vengeance when it came out on the platform, purely out of curiosity: I immediately considered it the best movie I had ever watched.
With Curzon expanding their online archive and BFI releasing new content online, my perspective towards cinema changed completely. Although it sounds dramatic, the new variety of films I now had access to overwhelmed and excited me to the fullest, whereas before I had limited myself to what was being shown in the theatres and took up watching movies at home only sporadically. I had to give up on the “theatre experience” that I so valued, but in the process I was introduced to a new world of directors and movies that I had not imagined before, in the comfort of my own home.
Then came my efforts to create a new experience routine for myself. Whenever I sat down to watch a movie, I made my environment as enjoyable as possible: candles, tea, dimmed lights. All the cheesy stuff. Yet as I indulged in the new normal of cinema, I found some sort of solitude in my ability to control the cinema experience that I had always so cherished, and was able to live my dream of running my own theatre one day, in my own room.
Edited by Juliette Howard, Film Editor