Saturday, 15 May 2010

Film Or Theatre?

I apologise for the gap between posts, I've been a bit busy this month. Today I'd like to talk about Film vs Theatre (as the title suggests).

Maybe this opinion is shared by no other person, but it seems to me that the majority of people these days, would rather see: a movie. That's understandable really. It really is. Cinemas generally offer a much more comfortable seat, a clear, unobstructed view, regardless of seat and less, if any, volume issues (quite the opposite). Those are the basic things we think about, aren't they?

Well, how about quality? The quality of what we are actually going to watch...

Movie budgets, assuming you're watching it in a cinema, are generally in the millions. Hundreds of millions. There are exceptions, such as the recent "Paranormal Activity". But they are truly the exception. Let's assume you were one of the millions who watched "Avatar" in 3D. The quality was indeed awesome, and the production costs were astranomical. Your seat ticket cost between £8 and £10. Fair enough.

Production costs for a play are much, much lower. Significantly lower. So why does it sometimes cost so much more? Well, it doesn't have to. And it can be so much more enjoyable than seeing a movie. You feel like you're part of the scenery almost. A fly on the wall. You feel so much more significant to the show. That's because you are. Those are people on the stage in front of you, and they're there just for you. They are there to entertain you. Movies are churned out for people to flock to en masse, digest, and forget about. Also, despite budgets deep in the millions, some movies are just utter crap.

So what's my point? Well, here is a direct example.

I recently went to see my girlfriends University production of "A Ghost Sonata". An adaptation of the play by August Strindberg. At first you might think that, because it's free to watch, and being put on by students, it won't be worth the journey. Then you're told that you won't be seated. It's a walk-round show. You literally walk into different scenes. Sigh. "So we have to actually stand on our feet", I hear you saying. Shut up. Don't be so lazy. I am happy to report that, putting aside all biases for my girlfriend, the show was awesome. What have I to gain by being biased anyway? The show's finished. It was simply one of the most spine-chilling fifteen minutes of my life. The play, and if you ever read it I'm sure you will agree, is actually quite drawn out and obtuse. Their adaptation was nothing short of professional. A live "horror" show, where the bastards scream in your ear and grab you in the dark. Terrifying. From the excellent costume work to the brilliantly crafted atmosphere, the show was astonishing. I think they had a budget of roughly £300, (did I just make that number up....probably), but you wouldn't know it.

I'd like to compare it directly to the recently re-imagined "A Nightmare On Elm Street". I'll save you a few lines of reading here and say it outright; save your money. Do not see this movie. Just...don't. The story was bland, disgraceful and offensive to my eyes. I actually felt like I was becoming dumber as I watched it. The effects were also bland and ineffective. Freddie is nowhere near as wretched as the original. Compare the visual wonder of movies like "Avatar" and "District 9" to this movie. How the hell did they make it so bad? With todays technology, there is simply no excuse for falling off in the visual department. Actually, bad is not the right word. Inneffective is perfect. It's not scary at all. It's repetitive. The same use of loud strings with a bang to try and scare the audience. The same use of mirrors as every other horror film since the 70's. Is it really so hard to be innovative in the Horror genre? I think not.

There was almost zero character development. Almost zero back-story. Why should we care about these characters that you're killing off, one by one? Just because they haven't slept for a few days? Get real. I felt robbed after paying to see this film. It scared the hell out of my girlfriend though, so maybe I'm just too critical. Or do I mean skeptical? She says I'm negative. Either way, I know crap when I see it.

It's a fact that going to the theatre can be more expensive and more time consuming than going to the cinema. But it doesn't matter, because the theatre is a unique experience everytime, and you're pretty much guaranteed a good performance, good story and strong characters, every time. If I had to choose between seeing a mediocre film for £10, or a great play for £20, even as a self confessed movie lover, I'd pick the play every time. Even between the choice of a great film or a great play, I'd probably pick the theatre show. Then again, maybe not.

But now you know, that if you're ever given the choice between "Nightmare On Elm Street 2010" and a University production of a mostly unknown horror play, you take a chance on the students, because they're acting their hearts out.

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