Last Wednesday, I trundled into my local Odeon and enquired if Nicolas Winding Refn’s divisive new mediation on guilt and violence – also known as Only God Forgives – would still be on next week, as that was the only chance I would have to catch it. To my complete lack of surprise, the answer was probably not and it proved to be the right answer. Only God Forgives lasted a week in the Bournemouth Odeon and it’s probably a Ryan Gosling shaped miracle it was even there for that long.
Disappointing? Incredibly. Unsurprising? No.
Ever since I found out that my hometown’s Odeon wouldn’t be showing Pan’s Labyrinth at all when it was first released, I’ve had to make do with the fact that I will struggle to capture independent and arthouse cinema at the err… cinema. What first started as impotent rage has slowly dialled itself down to reluctant acceptance, making do with whatever limited scraps I’m chucked when living in a medium sized town.
Bournemouth and Poole have about four cinemas in close proximity and only one of them is an independent cinema, which in the summer months mainly showcases blockbusters that may have been missed – Iron Man 3 is halfway through its run at the time of writing. Like most areas with an Odeon, it’s a good place to be if you want to keep up with mainstream cinema, but only the most prominent of independent films seem to trickle on through.
So for film fans like me, it’s left to wait for the home release of films and that can prove to be frustrating and also a slight sacrifice of the experience. Drive is one of the few indie films I’ve managed to catch in a multiplex and I’ve seen it several times since, but that first viewing remains perhaps my favourite because of the cinema experience. The bombastic audio in the car chases simply cannot be replicated in a home environment, no matter how loud I turn the sub-woofer up. While home viewing never detracts from what a film is trying to achieve, it is an example of the little advantages that cinema has over the home viewing experience.
The wait for the release could be changing however. Ben Wheatley’s latest film A Field In England launched consecutively across cinemas, on-demand, DVD and Film4. And launching films on-demand before their release has become a trend with some indies in the States, with Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie a recent example of the practice. It’s just one solution to the problem and at the very least it levels the playing field for film fans who don’t live close enough to a major city to be able to get a chance to watch them at the cinema.
A Field In England should have been impossible to miss for anyone who was desperate to see it and if more independent movies follow its lead, it only broadens the potential audience and that’s only going to lead to stronger word of mouth for fans who are used to having films at only a click away.
For the time being though, I’ll just have to wait till Only God Forgives rears its head on Blu-Ray. For now, my cinema trip this week will just have to be limited to one of the many blockbusters that I haven’t seen.
Do you agree with Ben? Should multiplex chains get better at playing indie films? Let us know in the comments section.