We interrupt this programme…

December 10, 2009, No comments

There’s something deliciously decadent about going to the cinema in the afternoon. It’s like bunking off school, only with permission (it was my day off). And in winter it feels even more surreptitious: when you go in with a bag of Maltesers it’s daylight, but you come out to a dark sky and twinkly Christmas lights. Yesterday I, and my Maltesers, went to see New Moon and, as always in Swiss cinemas, it felt like I was back in 1983 watching Return of the Jedi at my local flea-pit in Hampshire.

It’s nothing to do with the comfort or cleanliness. Swiss cinemas are like their trains in that respect, both super-clean and very comfortable. You never have to walk across popcorn-strewn floors and certainly have more leg-room that on Easyjet. It’s all about adverts and breaks. Many of the ads are the cringingly bad ones for local car dealers, health clubs and restaurants, though in Switzerland those are Italian not Indian. The film doesn’t jump but the adverts don’t seem to have changed for a couple of decades, which is probably true. In some ways it’s rather sweet to still have local adverts, not only big-production globalised ones where Richard Gere tries to sell you a car. And there are some funny ones.

Then there’s the interval. Yes, that’s right, most Swiss cinemas still have an interval. That in itself isn’t bad, especially when the film in three hours long and you’ve drunk too much water. Then a well-timed wee break is more than welcome. The problem is that the interval is never well-timed. It appears exactly half-way through the film, not matter what’s happening on screen. If you’re lucky it’ll only be a scene that’s cut in half, though usually it’s a line of dialogue that gets stopped midstream and, of course, when the film starts up again ten minutes later, the end of the line gets mangled. It’s almost as if someone in the projection room is standing there with a stopwatch, waiting for the precise moment (to the second) before shouting STOP! I know the Swiss have their reputation for punctuality and clockwatching to uphold, but can’t someone somewhere apply a little bit of attention to detail.

The best thing about Swiss cinemas is that it’s still possible to see films in their original version, not dubbed. OK, so the German and French subtitles fill half the screen but at least you can hear the real actor’s voice, not some German interpretation of it. This isn’t about comprehension but about enjoyment. I want to see films as they were made, with all the accents and emotion intact. In German, Meryl Streep sounds exactly the same whatever role she plays. Some of you might think that about her in English too, but there’s a world of difference between her as Karen Blixen and her as Julia Child. As for Gone with the Wind, when that’s dubbed they all sound like they’re from Essen not Atlanta. Frankly my dear, I do give a damn.

As for New Moon, it wasn’t too awful. Certainly an improvement on Twilight, mainly because the werewolves are so much easier on the eye than the vampires. Pale and moody gets a bit tiresome after a while. And Edward’s hair was shorter and less laughable. Maybe by the time he gets to Breaking Dawn, he’ll be a skinhead?

Leave a Comment