Like Seven and Juan, I’m here in this rundown hut, to confess to my own guilty addiction. Like Juan’s internet porn problem, my addiction is rather more prosaic than Seven’s drug problem. Like Juan, I am fortunate to be born into an existence where I don’t have to worry about having enough to eat (instead I worry about eating too much), don’t have to concern myself about being beheaded or kidnapped on a daily basis (contrary to what most Londoners who never venture south of the river might think) and have come to terms with my colonial past as a half-Protestant from the Republic of Ireland. Like Juan, I’m a little embarrassed by the nature of my addiction. It’s clearly a privileged 1st World Fear. Like Juan, I’m not a big fan of Juan the man as a human being – so I’m going to stop comparing myself to him now and zero in on addiction. I don’t like Juan.
My addiction, I confess to you, is a compulsion to consume cinema. I want cinema to overwhelm me, to light up parts of me I didn’t know existed, to force me to confront the ugly and take me by the hand towards the sublime. Cinema feeds my compulsion without regard to life outside my head. It is art, entertainment, form, social comment, narrative and non-narrative pleasure. Cinema is at once stimulation, idea, comfort, seducer and consumer. Cinema is both transcendental experience and smutty joke. Cinema for me is as varied, mundane, banal and surprising as life. Hell, cinemas IS life. Seven might think it’s generally rather more comfortable than his life, and I’d be hard pushed to argue the point. I guess I’m lucky. I know I am. But I’m still addicted.
It’s taken over my life. My wife and I met through cinema. My friends are almost entirely connected in one way or another to cinema. My adult education is cinema. My daughters had better love cinema or watch out! My working life is completely dominated by cinema. Take cinema away from me and I wonder what could possibly ever fill the hole.
My father once accused my obsessive teen-love of cinema as being ‘mental masturbation’. He’s a psychiatrist so I would forgive you for thinking he knew of what he spoke. He went on to elaborate how my constant fevered consumption of film was merely getting off on second-hand emotion. That’ll be the thing called Art I thought to myself. In retrospect I think he just wanted me to get out of the house more.
He was only half right. I get agitated when I see a powerful film and can’t rest until I have found a way to possess it once again and more permanently in my DVD collection (although I prefer the more professional sounding word ‘archive’ as it sounds less nerdy. Or does it? I’ve lost perspective). I can hear Marx breathing disapprovingly down my neck.
A film like Post Tenebras Lux makes me want to share my addiction. Juan comes to this room in the still above to somehow integrate with people from a completely different walk of life. Agendas may be different, but whatever the reasons, this surely is also what cinema does? It gives us all a place to meet, talk, experience and above all confess.
Simon Ward is deputy director at the Independent Cinema Office.