running on parallel time


A couple Sundays ago, I took some time off to be by myself. Work the week before that frazzled by nerves, and the weekend before that was a social, noisy, one – movies, lunches, a full-day of music at Laneway Festival (LOVE. FEIST.)

I’m not anti-social, and I miss company and companionship when either is absent for too long. But I enjoy solitude – the space and time to let your thoughts roam, to listen and see.

So that Sunday, I ran an errand, bought a book, went to a café and read over coffee, and watched “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”, which is probably the perfect movie if you’re in the mood for solitude: sparse dialogue, camera lingering on the characters’ faces, an intricate plot that unfolds quietly, tension and melancholy.

The woman next to me fell asleep, and I actually heard faint snoring from the row behind me. But I was enraptured. After a day spent by myself, watching other people and then reading a book of byzantine intrigues, I felt like a spy myself.

I have a simple criterion for movies: I need to be “pulled in”; when the movie ends, I need to pull myself back into the waking world. I admire the technique and artistry it takes to achieve such an effect on people. I love the magic of leaving the world behind for a couple hours and coming back, slightly changed by the experience. “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” does this very well – I could practically smell the damp London air.

Solitude is the same. I feel part and not part of my immediate surroundings. I set the pace, walk in a narrative of my own imagination and choosing, listening to my internal soundtrack. When I emerge back into the social world, it’s like leaving the cinema – your eyes adjust the light, you move sluggishly like you’ve forgotten how, your voice sounds foreign. Like waking from a dream.

P.S: Those who love Gary Oldman – a man whose colourful credits include "Leon", "The Fifth Element", "Dracula", "Air Force One" (HAHAH), the Harry Potter movies, "The Dark Knight" "Kungfu Panda 2" (!) – should read this Q&A in NYT; wonderful for the way he describes the movie, and, you know, because it’s him.

Picture by jack english via beyond hollywood


indigo16 said…
I use to love nothing better than occasionally playing hooky from work to go and sit in one of the more esoteric quieter cinemas in London to watch a subtitled film. I would dream of exiting and becoming the impossibly beautiful Isabel Adjani, pouting all the entire way home. Sadly those days are long gone, I neither pout nor dare play hooky, but I do love a trip to the cinema in glorious solitude.
Anonymous said…
a book of byzantine intrigues...can you please share the title of the book?? Im intrigued:)
Joy said…
i havent watched TTSS yet but since everyone is talking about i guess i should really go and check it out :) anyway im glad that somebody also goes to watch movies by themselves. solitude is a beautiful thing.
Fen said…
such a wonderful film, it (Gary Oldman in particular) definitely deserved to win more Oscars. I really want to read the novel, my boyfriend is really into John le Carré and he says it's amazing.
LN said…
Your day sounds perfect. I'm not much of a solo movie watcher, but I relish solitude. The equivalent of your day for me would be making a leisurely breakfast, spending time at a cafe with a book and journal, doing some window shopping, and watching a DVD on my couch with a blanket and a glass of wine. Btw, loved your writing in this post. So lovely.
Megan said…
Really love this post. I know exactly what you mean about having to be pulled back into the real world, and it makes me think I haven't had that in awhile.
The Waves said…
I like the way you describe being "pulled in" to a movie. There is a handful of movies I like to watch over and over again, and they all share the quality I think you are describing. There is a strange slowness to those movies; just something temporal that allows one to look at the details of the main character's suit, for example. I felt that with TTSP. I can see myself going back to it many times in the future.
Eileen said…
I am totally envious! I used to enjoy movies on my own, take a day off just roam and be lost in the city, sit by a quiet place to read, etc. when I was still single and studying.

"When I emerge back into the social world, it’s like leaving the cinema – your eyes adjust the light, you move sluggishly like you’ve forgotten how, your voice sounds foreign. Like waking from a dream."

This aptly describes what has been missing in my life. I miss the experience.
lin said…
indigo16: It's especially fun if it's a weekday afternoon, as everyone else is at work.

domi: Oops, I hope I didn't mislead you into thinking it was a book about the Byzantines, haha. I was actually describing "A Dance of Dragons", which is part of the "A Song of Fire and Ice" fantasy series. It's my fave escapist series of the moment - not too demanding to get through but very richly plotted and very vivid characters. Highly recommend it!

Joy: Benedict Cumberbatch is in it, if that's any encouragement!

Fen: Actually, I have trouble getting through John Le Carre novels, haha. I have a couple of abandoned attempts on my bookshelf. Hopefully you fare better!

LN: Thanks! And that sounds like my idea of a wonderful day too. I "save" books for such days.

Megan: Thanks! I suppose there is a danger of becoming "lost" forever but I think it's invaluable to have such moments to stay sane.

The Waves: That "slowness" is exactly what I mean. And I actually do look forward to revisiting the movie too.

Eileen: I hope you get the make the most of it when such a day comes along.
Anonymous said…
Loved that movie! Gary Oldman is brilliant! I fell in love with him way back when he played Sid Vicious in the movie Sid & Nancy. Have followed his career since.

Your day sounds wonderful. As a mom of two one of my favourite ways to get "me" time and stay sane, is to take an afternoon or evening off and see a movie by myself, or go to the ballet; something I can totally immerse myself in and not have to converse with anyone! -- Nadia
Aw, thanks for linking the NYT profile! I've loved him ever since Luc Besson's The Fifth Element.

I missed the movie in theaters, will have to wait for the DVD now.
Aïssa said…
Such a coincidence, I watched that movie alone too last Sunday! What I also enjoyed is that I watched it in a rather small theater, not a multiplex, and the room was almost empty and so quiet, lending an even more intimate feeling to the screening.
I really appreciated that break too.

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