“Do You Remember The Time?” Unforgettable Cinematic Experiences

If you love movies, chances are you have had them at least once. Probably many times. I’m talking about an experience with a film, whether in the cinema or at home, that has affected you so deeply, so impressively, that you’ll never forget it. It could be something as simple as a moment, a single second of a movie that touched you deeply in a way you can’t describe, or it could be the experience of a whole film. What are some of your unforgettable cinematic experiences? I mean, truly unforgettable. The best of the best. The ones that will stay with you forever.

I shall list a few cinematic experiences that truly changed me and the way I loved the movies, in no particular order:

1: Six years ago. Surfing the video rental store for something to watch. My eyes fall on a movie. I pick it up, read it, and decide to take it home. I watch Paris, Texas, and at the end I rush round to a mate’s house to give him the video. I share this movie with everyone. In particular, I share my experience of having my eyes glued to the screen during the film’s incredible climax, a monologue by Harry Dean Stanton that brought me to tears. Not the moment I fell in love with the cinema, but the moment my appreciation for it turned to something more.

2: More than a year ago. I check my email inbox and discover a message from a good friend of mine, Stephen. I open it and it reads: “That movie I told you about, it’s on Google Video. The quality’s real shit, but there’s no DVD release so it’ll have to do. I know it’s long, but just watch it, please.” About three nights later, I settle down to watch a low-quality but acceptable version of a film called A Brighter Summer Day. I watch the whole 238 minutes in one night. The film affects me so much, I don’t watch another movie for nearly a week. I needed time to think about it, for it to be the only film in my head. When I rewatched it recently in March, the incredible effect was still there.

3: March 3rd of this year. I drive round to a mate’s house. Many months earlier he finished building a home theatre in his house, and we had already had several movie nights, viewing such classics as Battleship Potemkin and 2001: A Space Odyssey on his big screen in a darkened room. With a recently purchased DVD of Satantango in my hand, I pull up at his house at around 5pm after he invited me to view the film in his theatre room on this night. At around six, I start watching the seven hour film in one completely unbroken, uninterrupted sitting, completely alone and surrounded by darkness, my only comfort the film. I finish at 1pm, and after sitting in my seat for another 30 minutes in stunned silence, I take my DVD, leave the house quietly, and drive home. I get into bed and try to go to sleep. With the sound of distant bells echoing in my head, I silently slip into unconsciousness.

4: December 16th, 2011. I settle down on my couch to watch a film I’d found on YouTube. I put my headphones on, close the curtains and put the movie on full screen. Ten minutes into the movie, my mouth is wide open in complete shock. An hour into the movie, my entire body is frozen. Nothing would be able to make me remove my eyes from the screen. After 139 minutes, the movie finishes, and I discover startlingly that there are tears running down my face. I wipe them, but they are stubbornly replaced by more. The whole day I can’t think of anything but the film, how incredible it was. I tell everyone about it, my girlfriend, my friends, my followers on Twitter, and of course, I write a glowing review on my blog, but I still feel like I haven’t said properly how fucking amazing the film was. Every subsequent day I’m thinking about it. I watch it again twice before the New Year, another time in January and once in February, until finally I buy it in March for $15 on Amazon UK. I pick up my DVD of it and watch it again, late at night, and while I don’t cry as passionately as I did the first time, I’m still struck by waves of shockingly strong, heavy emotion. It recurs every time I watch the film, and I watch it regularly. It will always be my favourite film of all time. You know what it is, right? It’s at the top of every page on this blog.

There. Those are four of my most strongest, unforgettable cinematic experiences. Now, it’s time for you to name some of yours. Whether in a blog post or just in a comment, let me know what movies and experiences have shaped the way you look at cinema.

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Posted on April 28, 2012, in Lists, Movies and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 27 Comments.

  1. What a great post! I’d definitely have to think about a list like this, as there are probably quite a lot of these moments for me, but I love the way you spoke about yours!

  2. daveackackattack

    Like I said previously Paris, Texas especially the ending scene. Seeing Lawrence of Arabia on the big screen. It prompted me to go to film school. Seeing Koyannisqatsi with Philip Glass playing live was quite spectacular. Walking out of the theater after seeing Amelie. I never had a film make me feel so joyous. Seeing the first 45 minutes of Full Metal Jacket. No one in the theater made a sound during that entire Parris Island scenes. Needless to say the film had your full attention. Riviting. The Thin Blue Line was unlike any doc I’d seen before. Errol Morris’s unique style was on full display for the first time and I realized that I was seeing something special when I sitting there in the theater. I’ll leave it at that.

    • Wow, those are all stunning cinematic experiences. I’m proud to say I can share some of them. I’ve seen Lawrence of Arabia on the big screen, and my experience with Koyaanisqatsi was equally momentous. I need to see The Thin Blue Line next.

      • daveackackattack

        Yeah The Thin Blue Line was one of a kind. Basically Errol Morris invented the docudrama with that film. All the reenactments you see now on TV on all those true life police/procedural shows goes back to that movie. It wasn’t even nominated for an Academy Award. The documentary community shunned him for his flamboyant style even if the critics loved him. I mean jeez… the film actually reopened the case and got Randall Dale Adams released from death row in prison. His Academy Award acceptance speech for The Fog Of War was a little bitter because he finally got some recognition after all those years from the community that shunned.

  3. I often have experiences like these – in fact, I had one today with The Avengers. I was so pumped by that movie.

    My favourite cinematic experiences, though, were the three times I saw Inception in cinemas. Each of them were so special, and I can’t ever hope that I’ll emulate them again!

  4. The title of A Brighter Summer Day reminds me of Elvis Presley’s song “Are You Lonesome Tonight”… A very, very beautiful title for a film.

    Though I am awestruck by many films, I think I know what kind of experiences you’re talking about. I had one at the end of Stand By Me.
    Atonement, the whole movie. The Little Mermaid, which I just rewatched after almost a decade. Drive. And many others.
    Of course, my favorite film “Dil Se..” too.

    • The title A Brighter Summer Day (which is one of my favourite film titles of all time), is actually based on the Presley song, which features in the movie (the soundtrack of the film is largely American rock music as it is set in the 1960s).

      I will have to see Dil Se, since it is your favourite movie.

  5. Seeing Pan’s Labyrinth in the cinema. It was my first foreign film. I am now enrolling into film school as the film started my inspiration to become a filmmaker. Another would be catching Naked by Mike Leigh in the early hours of the morning. Some of the greatest dialogue and characters I have ever witnessed. The final shot with David Thewlis limping away transcends normal feeling.

    • I didn’t love Pan’s Labyrinth but that was years ago. I owe it another viewing.

      I LOVE Mike Leigh’s Naked. A great movie.

  6. Christian Hallbeck

    My first experience(s) of “Wild Strawberries” resembles the one you have when watching “Werckmeister Harmonies”. I recognize those “strong, heavy emotions”, as well as that feeling of pure, indescribable magic. I still consider “Wild Strawberries” to be the most “magical” movie I know. For that reason I seldom watch it (I don’t think I’ve watched it for nearly ten years now): because the last time I did, I noticed with sadness that I wasn’t overwhelmed with that feeling anymore. It had become weaker. I didn’t even cry to the ending. Therefore, I want to remember “Wild Strawberries” the way I experienced it those first times. And I can. Belive me, I can.

    • I’ve only seen Wild Strawberries twice, but I will have to see it again. I remember with vivid clarity the dream sequence, the ending and pretty much every scene featuring Bibi Andersson.

  7. What an excellent, personal post. Because of this write-up, fuck it, I’m watching Wrekmeister Harmonies this weekend. I’ve been putting it off for too long.

  8. Watching Eyes Wide Shut. Kept me glued to the screen from start to finish. Also, seeing the Dark Knight in theaters was a pretty awesome moment.

  9. It’s somewhat embarrassing, but my fondest cinematic experiences are: seeing the Lord of the Rings extended trilogy in theaters in the new HD transfer and seeing The Cabin in the Woods. Both were such fun, visceral experiences.

  10. Bit late to this posting but seeing John Boorman’s “Point Blank” with Lee Marvin and Angie Dickinson, plus a cast of other great US support actors, in the UK cinema when it was released in the late ’60s. The film was so amazing for me in story, acting, editing and cinematography that it is the only film in my life that I have sat there and immediately watched through again in full for a second time!!

    This was back in the days when cinemas ran films continuously and did not reserve seats/clear theatres between showings.

    It also started a life long appreciation of the writer whose book the film was based on (Richard Stark AKA Donald E. Westlake, now sadly deceased) but that is another different story.

  11. Tyler,

    If you do watch on a DVD try and get the last release from a few years ago which has an excellent commentary between John Boorman and Steven Soderbergh (who is clearly a big fan of the movie) and tells you a lot more than most such commentaries plus the riffing between two great film directors makes it more interesting narrative than the usual monologues provided on DVDs.

    Secondly my apologies to any Canadian readers of this blog – the “US” actors includes two excellent Canadian leads making their first Hollywood appearances being John Vernon who deservedly went on to greater things (especially in Clint Eastwood movies) and Sharon Acker who sadly did not, though I think she is great in this movie.

  1. Pingback: Duke & The Movies :: With A Little Help From My Friends

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