The differences are subtle but, nevertheless, foreign. Sugary flavored popcorn outsells its salty seasoned rival nearly 2:1. Moviegoers sip beer from bottles inside the theatre while cigarette commercials dripping with sex appeal interrupt the steady flow of American movie previews dubbed in German. In case you were wondering, Hugh Grant loses his hangdog cuteness when his endearing stammer is replaced with a staccato baritone overdub. And step into the bathroom and you immediately lock eyes with a condom and mini-vibrator dispenser hawking its wares to the presumptuous and swaggish on his way to the 20:00 o’clock showing of the Hugh Grant rom-com ‘Wie Schreibt Man Liebe?’ or better known as (for the smattering of American viewers who might catch this “charmer”) The Rewrite. The intermission, I have to admit, was a nice touch, especially for the guilt free “not-missing-the-slow-part” pee break. But the one addition that felt a tad extravagant and over-the-top, even for ÜbermaxX standards, was the non-traditional theatre exit: a three-story, winding and enclosed slide that would have been better suited for the local water park than the twenty-theatre megaplex in Bremen, Germany.
But for all the slight differences between the German and American film-going experience, one aspect that did not seem foreign was the universal need for film. The throng of eager and excited faces scanning movie times as if they were desperately searching departure flights for the last plane out of Casablanca said it all: get me the hell out of here. Not out of the bone-seeping dampness of the Northern German winter, but away from “here,” in the existential “me-myself-and-I” sense. Film, no matter where on the globe it is being watched, provides the escapist’s delight, that hypnotic trap door, or in the case of the Bremen ÜbermaxX, a winding, enclosed slide, to an alternate universe free from the mundane grind. Film is that ticket, forever-punched, universal in its ability to teach us all to dream bigger dreams, to aspire just out of our reach, to walk in the shoes we never expected to fill, and to fall in love from heights we never imagined love could make us fall from:
For the first time in over a year I pushed through the doors of the local cineplex lobby and immediately basked in the incandescent glow of freedom. Unburdened by the heft of a diaper bag and a 30-pound toddler and strolling nothing other than my eagerness to crunch through a bucket of popcorn (I might even plow through the entire “trough” before the previews’ end – #solomoviegoerproblems) while enjoying my life in an alternate reality. I couldn’t help but tear up and smile. I handed my ticket to the cashier and ready for my nearly three-hour leave. The air conditioner blew back my hair as I slowly rumbled up the three stories on the escalator and walked through the doors of theatre #6: the 20:00 o’clock showing of Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar in English. At least so I thought …
Clearly I must have entered some sort of wormhole, because after suffering through nearly half my bucket of accidentally ordered sweet popcorn, and arguing with myself that the overdubbed Liam Neeson trailer had to be Tak3n (but I soon learned it was just another Neeson project where he hunts down someone else who was, well … taken) the movie finally began. The dulcet score by Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross swooned in. Hmm, I thought Hans Zimmer scored Interstellar. Something was off. But when the opening credits listed “A David Fincher Film” I knew this wasn’t right. I was in fucking Gone Girl. But not just me. Half the beer-buzzed theatre groaned with displeasure. Needless to say, chaos ensued. The 17-year old concession stand employee explained to a panicked me, in surprisingly good English I might add, that they moved Interstellar to Theatre #7 and Gone Girl to Theatre #6. “Apparently they forgot to make an announcement,” she shrugged matter-of-factly. I pushed my way through the unruly mob of “Gone Girlers” and “Interstellarers” fighting their way to their proper theatres. I snagged a seat, cracked open my warm beer, and settled in just as Liam Neeson’s trailer began. I am telling you, it is Tak3n.