In a day and age where we have a wide array of films at our fingertips through a variety of online streaming services, it is becoming rarer for most people to take a trip to their local cinema. Rarer still is the chance to witness a film from a past era in its original form as I had the pleasure of doing with David Fincher’s Seven (1995), viewing it in glorious 35mm at Duke of York’s in Brighton. This was perhaps the perfect film to illustrate what is often called the magic of cinema, and the importance of experiencing movies the way they were intended.
When the camera first focused in, it became clear that 35mm print is not the clean cut, pristine image many of us are used to. It is gritty, there are scratches on the film, and there can be pops in the audio. This flawlessly complements the brutality, and harshness of Fincher’s classic crime thriller, and adds to its unsettling tone.
As detectives Mills (Brad Pitt) and Somerset (Morgan Freeman) track a horrific serial killer the rough picture enhances their feeling of struggle, in addition to further creating an atmosphere in which it is clear the world is not quite right. Each gruesome murder scene is enriched by the rawness of the camera quality to a point where it can become difficult to watch.
The final standoff had an extra tension brought about by the rustic feel given by just how much the orange saturated into the film reel, and the stunning audio hits with a bang in a way which is impossible to garner from home.
You cannot help but feel an unbridled, unequivocal joy at the whole experience, as it appeared the applauding masses at the end of the film did. Applause is a correct response to the visceral bliss felt having observed a piece of fine art.
Film is art. Film should be treated like art. When seeing artwork like The Sistine Chapel, or Goya’s Black Paintings in person many can be overwhelmed, as the distance between the artist and the viewer is erased, and a transcendent human moment is realised. Not many would claim to be able to achieve this kind of connection through a photograph of such a painting, and in the same vein this kind of connection with movie directors as artists is only possible when seeing their masterpieces in the art gallery known as a cinema.
I may have focused on the harsh, strong tones created by watching Seven in 35mm, but the magic of cinema comes in all shapes and sizes. I could easily echo my feelings regarding viewing a modern film with the high-quality digital picture and audio only available in modern cinemas. Nevertheless, 35mm is an important part of film making history which should be cherished and that can only be done by watching films in this form instead of at home.
It is probably best to end similarly to Seven, paraphrasing Ernest Hemingway: The cinema is a fine place and worth fighting for.
Image source: IMDB