More Than a Movie..

My fascination with movies started in 1978 when I saw Close Encounters of the Third Kind – a film about aliens, aptly enough. I remember feeling scared, not about the movie, but of everything around me. The crowds. The smells. The cacophony of voices. The familiar feeling of wanting to be sick. The fear of vomiting in public.

I also remember the feeling in my chest as the lights dimmed and the cinema screen flickered into life for the first time in my life..

Cinema was very different in those days and for the young (and undiagnosed) autistic me it made for a conflicting experience because of the queuing, crowds, uncomfortable seating and divs using the back of my chair as a foot-rest. Not to mention the aroma of hot dogs and cigarette smoke! That said, once the film started I was able to lose myself in the fantasy – providing my bladder wasn’t too full, that is.

In contrast, last week I went to see The Crimes of Grindleward – a completely different experience because all of the above (aside hot dogs) has been eliminated. Even crowds, if you choose the earlier showing times.

I’d imagine that a lot of autists love watching movies, either at the cinema or at home. That’s because being able to lose ourselves in fantasy helps to make existence on this confusing planet a little more bearable, no? And when it comes to the wizarding world, I’d guess many autists identify with the ‘non-magical’ versus wizards’ concept because it’s not dissimilar to the NT versus autistic one.That’s not to suggest that we have magical powers, because we don’t. Unless you consider photographic memory a superpower? Or that there is a war between autistic and non-autistic. It’s just that ‘No Maj’s’ don’t understand the wizarding world and vice versa.

There are many autistic traits to be found in the Harry Potter/Fantastic Beasts films. I mean, Newt Scamander has many Asperger traits, despite no affirmation from J.K Rowling. Then again, the film is set in the 1920s so Newt wouldn’t have been diagnosed anyway. And while it can be said that Harry Potter himself isn’t an autistic character, one can empathise with the range of emotions he goes through when Hagrid informs him that, actually, he’s a shit-hot wizard and those things about himself that he never understood – such as his hair growing back overnight – suddenly make sense which is not dissimilar to receiving an autism diagnosis.

Aside the film itself, I consider the credits to be an important part of the experience, but time and time again I find that I am the only person remaining in my seat as the last credits scroll up. It’s always the same. The end of the film comes, the soundtrack kicks in and there’s a flurry of activity with people standing up, coats being put on and a general mass exodus towards the exits. Some people hang on for the crowds to disperse and then they get up and leave which just leaves me..

I always watch the credits. One reason is that I like to see the names of the people who made the film possible. Another is that I’m a music fan and there are often several pieces of music of soundtrack played during the credits. Also, there is often something extra mid-credits or at the very end. Some movies use bloopers and in others the post credit scenes are a crucial part because it ties the movie up or leaves the audience (or who ever is left) in a state of anticipation.

*SPOILERS WARNING* At this point I’m going to use UP and Christopher Robin as examples so if you haven’t seen those films and would like to, please scroll down beyond the italics.

In the case of the animated film, UP, the credit scenes flip through Carl’s photo album and we get to see the adventures he has with Russell and Dug. As we see in the film, this is what Ellie wanted him to do after she was gone. Blended with the beautiful (and award-winning) score by Michael Giacchino these scenes brings this movie to a pleasing end. Everything is tied up and you leave the cinema feeling happy.

A more recent example is Christopher Robin where, after a few minutes of credits, there is a little sequence where all the characters are having a dance and a sing-song on the beach where there is an old man playing a piano. The old man is no other than Richard Sherman, a nine time Oscar nominee and writer of some of the most memorable songs Disney ever made. It’s a sweet touch and one that many people never got to see because they left the cinema as soon as the credits started to roll.

If I hadn’t stayed for the Fantastic Beasts credits, I wouldn’t have heard the fantastic soundtrack. Or learned that Mr Depp had a small army of people pandering to his every need. Or that his scary contact lens had its very own technician.

Then, there’s the flip from fantasy to reality..

I would happily sit in the empty cinema long after the credits have finished because I need time to adjust from fantasy to reality. But that’s not possible when the cleaners are giving you the evils because they can’t start cleaning up until you’ve shifted your arse.

In my younger days, I would go home and reenact everything I saw and then I would work the characters into my world using their phrases, mannerisms and style. I know now that it was part of masking – of being somebody I wasn’t because I couldn’t be myself. In those days, I was more out of this world than I was in it – something which my mother would testify to, if she were alive. She always said that I never seemed to be here. She was right. I was far, far away..

I wish I could take the credit for this quote, but it comes from a fellow autist in response to an online post I made about staying until the very end of the credits. I think that many of us will identify with it.

Earth is simply where my body is tethered…

These days, I don’t go home, shut myself away and reenact. Those days ended when I realised that nobody else I knew did such a thing – not on their own anyway. Drama was never an option for me due to my social and communication problems. Not to mention, crippling anxiety. Any enjoyment of being able to become different characters would have been lost in the discomfort of everything else. And so it’s down to music, literature and the movies to take me away from life.

In the cinema, the endorphins flood my body. The feel good hormones. The ‘I can fucking do this‘ hormones!

Then the experience ends. I push open the exit door and reality slaps me in the face with atomic force.

The anxiety. The weariness. The disconnection.

I’d give anything to turn around and walk back into that darkened room because that room is my wardrobe into Narnia. It’s a portal to another world – a world that understands me.

16 thoughts on “More Than a Movie..

  1. It’s like my son. We wait for everybody else to leave then he sits for a few minutes. Then we leave the cinema by a side door to avoid the crowds. In the car he re-enacts whathe has just watched. I was also like that. These days it takes a really big movie (eg Avengers) for him to go now, prefers to wIt for the dvd to come out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bless him. I’m a weird one because I am sensitive to noise, but I love to play my music loud and surround sound is awesome. But the sound of electricity drives me nuts lol. Do you know that a lot of cinemas do autism showings where it’s quieter and less dark etc? They are generally less crowded too. Maybe your son would cope better?

      Liked by 1 person

    • True. My son is also autistic and we noticed that he struggled with background noise before his school concert this year, but was ok once the show started. I think he’s like me in that respect. Good to hear he likes rock music.👍


  2. Great post! The cinema is one of my favourite escapes, alongside reading when I have the mental energy to be able to focus (some days I can sit for hours reading, others I can try but my brain is so focused on other things nothing gets read, or I read but dont process!).

    It was funny going with Damian last week as the person in front of us was sat on his phone while the film was on, and all I’m going to say is Damian made sure he put it away 😂

    Also, the actor who plays Newt has suggested that he is autistic, which is interesting:

    What did you think of the film?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, I mentioned in my post that I think Newt is autistic, though I don’t think J.K Rowling has verified it. The film is fantastic. Special effects are phenonmenal. Johnny Depp is magnificent and Newt is the best character, ever. And lol about Damian…I can well imagine that he did. He wouldn’t have been able to cope with anybody not giving Pokemon their full attention. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  3. My first cinema experience as a kid was Flight of the Navigator. I was hooked from then on. I had already been entranced by movies we would get on good old VHS but the cinema was another world. Movies are part of me. I don’t know who I am without them. I have taken onboard so many characters they are now part of me. Like invisible friends I can go back to for comfort and advice. I can experience my emitions through films.

    I was undiagnosed until mid-30s but looking back I remember the things that I didn’t like that I had to overcome in order to experience the film. The smell of popcorn. Ew. It stops me from eating anything and I find it nauseating. The crowds. The cacophony of chatter hurts. Hair and bits of food left on chairs. Gross. Wearing a hoodie feels like a barrier from unwanted strange hairs touching mine. I always choose back row to avoid someone kicking my chair and inciting homicidal retaliation. The sound can be a bit loud sometimes and I come away feeling a bit deaf.

    It’s like every cell in my body gets excited at experiencing a film. I read every name in the opening credits .. pay attention to camera angles.. director shots .. pick out the stuntmen vs actors… look for bloopers and scene continuity… pick up words and phrases to quote later… feel the characters… and of course watch the end credits.. see where the locations were… the songs .. who was the assistant to the stars… who played the animals… all very important. I might also be waiting for crowds to leave … but I do feel until the end credits have completely finished that the film is still playing.

    Film for me is a complete experience. I am fortunate to live close to a couple of cinemas and can go to the smaller one to avoid the teen masses. I usually avoid crowds but the lure of emersing myself in another world for a couple of hours is overwhelming and I am able to stave off panic attacks. Just please don’t sit next to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hate people sitting next to me too and I always have to sit in the end seat. You have no idea how much it means to me to read your comment because you’ve described me. Not just the sensory stuff, but how movies affect you psychologically. Thank you so much for reading and commenting. 🙂


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