by Vala Schriefer

I purchased my first ticket for the day at a quarter to eleven. The sun had crawled across the sky, but there was not a shard of sunlight to be seen where I was. I zigzagged through the filmmakers, bearing their special passes like medallions, and in turn, unstuck the fanatics glued to them. I eavesdropped on the film-enthusiasts who, in their post-film-zombie state, slipped into shoulder-to-shoulder huddles and strategized for the next film they would conquer. People did not trickle in, they flooded, and all were dragged by the current. The movie theater became an envelope, and I was sealed in darkness, stamped, and sent off into uncharted territory. The cross-examiners sat with their arms folded and stretched apart every detail of the film. The conversationalists fanned whispers through the air. The “dragged-along-friends” peered through the seats at the unfamiliar dance between light and dark.

When the film reached its ending, the cross-examiners began their chatter, the conversationalists burst with explanations, and the “dragged-along-friends” sat excitedly on the edge of their seats. One would have to make a conclusive thought about the film, rate it, and turn in the rated ballot before exiting the theater. For some, this was as easy as ripping one of the four labeled corners of the ballot. For me, it was putting a dazed civilian on the front line; asking them to be able to react instantly. I would frantically comb through the details, all the while paddling through the river of exiting film-watchers.

By the second film, however, I knew the drill. People would gather like clouds and drift into theaters where all would awe at the illuminated screen. Throughout the day, I collected films and let them thaw in my mind. By film number four, I was a zombie like the other hardcore movie fanatics. I staggered by the various theaters and prepared myself for my last film of the day. I sat down in my seat and watched the cross-examiners, the conversationalists and the now converted “dragged-along-friends”. Before the screen lit up, I began to think about where I belonged on the “film-goer-spectrum”. The dance began; light met dark and the two whirled and bled in the air. The words floated onto the screen and the graying faces grew silent. I not only watched the film, but studied those around me; welcoming in the sights and sounds of every participant. It was clear to me now, that I was an observer of film and the disciples of film. At the end of my last film, I stood outside the theater observing the ricocheting people line up to have their minds carved by the art of lights.