Cinema chatterboxes must die, writes Donald Clarke
eing the very model of a flabby western liberal, I pretend to oppose the re-introduction of the death penalty for even the most serious of crimes. Of course, like most reasonable people, I admit that, when subjected to an extreme outrage, I do find my hand itching for the noose or the deadly syringe.
Imagine the situation. You are sitting happily in the cinema when you become aware of an insistent droning emanating from the obese imbecile in front of you.
“Who’s he? Is he the man who was wearing the hat earlier?” he says before shovelling another hundredweight of salted corn kernels into his empty head.
“Paris . . . France . . . 12 o’clock,” his equally detestable mooncalf of a girlfriend says in response to a legend at the bottom of the screen. “Are they in France, now?”
State-approved slaughter is the only reasonable response to talking in the cinema. If you say nothing to the gibbering jackass you will be condemned to an hour or two of silent fuming. If, however, you do decide to have a word, then a simmering tension will hang about the auditorium until the credits roll. How much simpler it would be if you were allowed to whip out an axe – a chainsaw or a revolver might disturb the other cinema-goers – and neatly lop the offenders’ heads off. No decent person would mourn their passing.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Screenwriter is, here, indulging in unhinged hyperbole. I’m not so sure. I would, I think, genuinely relish the public execution and disembowelment of cinema conversationalists. My girlfriend and I would, perhaps, draw up deckchairs before the scaffold and focus on the wrongdoers’ ashen faces as they were led towards oblivion.
“Who’s he? Is he the man with the popcorn?” I might say.
“I bet that man in the black hood is going to kill that foul woman,” she would reply. “Not so f**king chatty, now. Is she?”
When did people start behaving like pigs in the cinema? A degree of civility persisted throughout the 1960s and 1970s, so you certainly can’t blame the decline in conduct on habits picked up in front of broadcast television. Perhaps it was the arrival of video in the 1980s that blurred the distinction between living room and auditorium. If you jabber before Harry Potter at home then you may feel entitled to jabber before that wizard in public. Whatever the cause, there can be no doubt that today’s cinemagoers are less respectful towards the medium than their parents were.
Or can there? As late as the 1970s, when films still played in a continuous loop, it was quite normal to enter the cinema halfway through the action and remain seated until the next screening reached the point at which you came in. People smoked foul cigarettes, snogged furiously and, if stories about the release of are to be believed, occasionally rioted in the sticky aisles.
They should have strung them all up. It’s the only language they understand.