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Film review: Secret Cinema

  Friday 9th November 2012

They don’t advertise themselves. You don’t know what film is going to be screened going into it. You don’t even know where the event is being held; you meet at a secret location and then tell-no one about what you experience.

Secret CinemaBut despite (or perhaps partially because of) this element of extreme mystery, Secret Cinema has become something of a cult phenomenon amongst cinephiles looking to experience film in a different way. The whole concept behind it is to provide a theatrical, wholly immersive cinema experience that extends far beyond the confines of the silver screen. Locations are painstakingly transformed into intricate sets for you to wander around and explore; the audience is dressed in the same clothes as the actors so you’re never sure who’s part of the crew; you play out a whole interactive movie experience then sit down to watch a film with no prior indication (unless you’ve figured it out as a result of the evening’s general theme) as to the film’s title. The whole thing takes about six hours and is easily one of the most bizarre ways you can spend an evening whilst also being easily the most exciting way to consume a movie.

Since 2007, they’ve run 18 productions (this new one being number 19); in June they held an interactive screening of Prometheus alongside its run in cinemas. It was endorsed by Ridley Scott himself and accounted for around 3% of the British box office takings for the movie, a testament to the growing popularity and renown of this ingenious cinema consumption medium.

So what about this new production? Well, it would be totally wrong of me to ruin the surprise of the movie or the sets. But know this – Secret Cinema have really outdone themselves here, perfectly (and I mean perfectly) encapsulating the feel, atmosphere and characterisation of the movie they’ve chosen. 

Beginning with you being sentenced in court, the evening constantly unveils a series of events and moments that’ll have you grinning from ear to ear. Everything was phenomenally well-thought-out and constructed, the sheer breadth of imagination and planning needed to execute the event was mind-boggling. The location itself was enormous, offering three levels, a courtyard and a handful of smaller buildings away from the main location. You’re encouraged to open every door, wander down every corridor, interact with as many people as possible and generally immerse yourself within this self-contained little universe.

The whole evening was lifted directly from the movie shown at the end, so after a few pre-planned narrative “events” started, it was pretty easy to figure out what was going to be played. But then, the movie itself isn’t really the point, it’s the McGuffin of the whole affair with the enjoyment coming from the experience as a whole.

It’s advised you take along some extra cash to purchase “Library Cards” (you know, for reading…wink) and shake off any wall-flower-like habits you may possess before entering; it’s an extremely social event.

The only downside to everything was the lack of information regarding location, which meant getting home after the production had finished was a bit of a nightmare. Though, for what has simply got to be the most unique, bizarre and downright fun movie-going experience out there, it’s a small price to pay.

Verdict: •••••

Jonathan Day

Secret Cinema’s current production is running from 6th November through until 2nd December. Find out more about them and what they do at their website. Just don’t tell anyone….

Check out their previous production of Blade Runner in the video here:

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