Over the years I have had a harder and harder time watching movies. I finally understand why. Television shows are designed to be broken up into segments. The acts in a typical TV show, whether a sitcom or drama, are neatly separated by commercial breaks. Of course, with streaming services, those commercials are typically absent, but the pattern of storytelling remains. You can pause a show at a particular point, perform some task, and then resume without really breaking continuity.
With movies it is different. Movies are designed to be watched end-to-end, as if you were sitting in a theater, eyes glued to the screen. Movies are immersive, and when it comes to story-telling, immersive is what I like best. So why can’t I watch movies anymore? Life, it seems, has become so fragmented that I can’t make it through a movie without having to pause it for some interruption. It is inevitable. I can’t remember the last time I was able to watch a movie end-to-end uninterrupted. As someone who tunes out everything else and falls into the movie, this is a problem.
Interruptions break that magic of the storytelling. I find myself pulled deeply into what I am watching, tuning out everything else around me so that a movie is much more of an experience than just sitting and watching it. The room falls away, the surrounding and sounds disappear, and when I watch a movie, I feel like I become part of the story. Interruptions break that spell, and once broken, it is impossible for me to reclaim that sensation.
This became clear a few weeks ago when I re-watched the Indiana Jones films. Those movies were among the most immersive for me. They are great fun (honestly, I don’t think they make movies like those anymore, everything I see tends to be dark, gritty, and humorless) and the perfect vehicles to lose yourself in for a few hours. Except that I couldn’t lose myself. The movies were fun, sure, but having to pause them every ten for fifteen minute was a drag and spoiled much of that fun. Like time-sharing on a computer, life has become fragmented into tiny slices of time that alternate activity and interruption, and make it virtually impossible to become part of the story on the screen.
Part of this is me, of course. As a storyteller myself, I need to be fully immersed in the story. Other people don’t have to do this. Kelly can watch a movie and do other things and enjoy both. She can and does often skip the slow parts of the movie. I can’t do this–for me, every part of the story has meaning.
There isn’t much I miss about movie theaters with the parking and prices, but if there is anything I miss, it is the ability to fully disappear into the story unfolding on the screen–unless I drink a soda or beer, in which case I’ll inevitably find myself sneaking off to the restroom during some pivotal scene.