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Late showing

On the basis that I have been dragging myself out of my sick bed all week to teach people, last night I decided that I was damn well going to drag myself out to do something for me instead. So I went out to a late showing of The Wicker Man at the Queen's Film Theatre with captainlucy. The bargain was that if I was still awake at 11pm, and had a temperature of anything under 38, I would go. Well, I made sure I was awake (not too hard, with the prospect of a Wicker Man screening at stake), and the thermometer said 37.9, so I downed some Neurofen and off I went.

The QFT guide had said the screening would last 102 minutes, which is generally cited as the length of the longer surviving version of the film, so I was particularly excited: I had seen the shorter version twice on the big screen before, at the Oxford Phoenix, but not the longer one. (For info on the various different versions, I can't recommend this site highly enough). I was a little surprised, since only the shorter version survives as a cinematic reel - the longer one has been compiled by adding in videotape footage of the scenes which were cut. But I figured maybe they were going to use a digital projector to play the longer version, which is now available on DVD.

Sadly, once the film started playing, we quickly realised that it was actually a cinematic reel of the shorter version that we were seeing. But to be honest, this turned out to be only a minor disappointment. The impact of the film on the big screen was still incredible, and in any case I haven't seen the shorter version for a while, so it was nice to be reminded of how it differs from the longer. I realised that it isn't as bad as I'd thought, actually - I'd come to think of it as so badly cut as to be totally incoherent, but in fact it does work OK, and the logical sequence of events is nothing like as messed-up as I'd thought.

The really wonderful thing is that although I've seen this film easily ten times, and have made much use of the pause button on my DVD to drink in details like all the sweets in the post-office, the names in the school register and the photographs in the chemist's shop, it is so strong and so detailed that still I noticed new things even last night. In the school-house, I noticed that when the girls open their exercise books, they all have drawings in them of the May-pole which they had clearly been working on earlier in the day, some of them with large Nuada-suns drawn in the sky above. Several girls also have little paper boxes on their desks - perhaps something they have been making in a maths lesson, since they looked like they were made out of squared paper? When Howie went to throw the hare down on Lord Summerisle's rug while he and Miss Rose were singing 'The Tinker of Rye', I noticed for the first time how many beautiful red roses there are in vases around the room, and how closely they match the colour of Lord Summerisle's kilt. Surely a reflection of the bond between him and Miss Rose herself? *tries hard to suppress jealousy*

And I also noticed something which I felt very silly for not having spotted before, and which captainlucy had obviously spotted years ago - when Howie goes into the ruined church, clears the empty fruit-boxes off the altar and proceeds to make a rough wooden cross with two pieces of packing-carton, there is a single snail which remains on the altar while he does so. This might not seem that significant to those who've only seen the shorter version, but if you put it together with the scene in the longer version where Lord Summerisle recites a Walt Whitman poem about turning to nature and rejecting God while two snails copulate on a rhubarb leaf and Willow initiates young Ash Buchanan into manhood, it becomes a subtle and unobtrusive symbol of the futility of what Howie is trying to do in the face of the prevalent beliefs on Summerisle.

There's no question about it - seeing a film in the cinema is a very different experience from seeing it on a small screen, and I think this is part of what allowed me to notice all these new details. Things were bigger, my eyes were drawn to different points on the screen, and I was in a physically different setting from being at home in front of my computer, which shook me up and made me pay more attention. I made captainlucy sit in the centre of the front row with me, and despite the crick-in-the-neck factor, I don't regret it at all!

At the end of the film, I worried for a moment that I might have seen the powerful and chilling climactic scene enough times now that it wouldn't really have much effect on me. But I needn't have. My mouth fell open with the sheer emotional impact of what was happening, and both of us sat still in our seats afterwards, gaping and silent in wonder.

Meanwhile, today I am a little tired thanks to staying up until nearly 2am. But I had the best night's sleep I've had in ages, and woke up with a normal temperature! Maybe it was the restorative power of The Wicker Man, or maybe rather I was able to go out to The Wicker Man last night because I am genuinely starting to feel better. But either way, I think there is a real chance now that I am finally recuperating. A little more rest over the weekend, and I hope I'll be properly back on my feet again.

About to be substantially cross-posted to christopherlee_


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 13th, 2005 01:37 am (UTC)
I went to see it tonight and i appreciate it much more on a second viewing. I noticed many more things that I had not caught the first time round. I disliked it initially but I'm definitely finding myself warming to it (pardon the pun)
Mar. 13th, 2005 01:20 pm (UTC)
Glad you enjoyed it - I think you'll keep on noticing more things and keep likeing it more the more times you see it. It's one of those films you can enjoy over a life-time.
Mar. 14th, 2005 09:12 am (UTC)
Wicker Man on the big screeen! Jealous.. I don't think I've ever even heard of a cinema screeing of it.
Mar. 14th, 2005 09:16 am (UTC)
I do count myself very lucky to have been able to see it that way three times now. This is part of why I'm prepared to make the effort to go even when ill, as I really think it's one of those opportuniuties that has to be seized with both hands when it arises. It really is a brilliant experience.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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