How cinema changed my life

Advertising is on, the lights are still on, the visitors take their places. But then it starts: the lights go out, the curtains are fully opened and the audience falls silent. The movie starts.

Even with the description I almost get goose bumps. This cinema experience has accompanied me for more than 40 years. During this time the technology got better and better, the sound more powerful, the armchairs more comfortable, the films more bombastic, the popcorn more expensive. But in the end there was always the same tickle.

My Name is Bond, James Bond

My father and Roger Moore gave me my first encounter with the big screen world. My mother had an appointment with the hairdresser and my father was supposed to kill time with me in town. That’s when we got the idea to go to the cinema. My previous films have been tailored, or at least suitable, for children: cartoons from Disney, hit-and-run films with Bud Spencer or comedies with Louis de Funès.

But then I fell under the spell of the greatest secret agent of all time: Although I was only ten and thus two years under the age rating of the film, I saw the James Bond film “In the Face of Death” (1981) with my father. Even the opening credits with the provocative silhouettes of naked women nibbling at guns made my head spin. And when it really banged, a chase on skis took place and in the end good triumphed over bad, I was finally addicted. I had to see more.

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For the next few years, an art house cinema in the neighboring city showed a different Bond film every week. So every week I took the train and tram there, watched the films, and drove back. That’s how I’ve actually seen all James Bond films in cinemas – to this day.

Until the blood freezes

A special category in the cinema are horror and horror shockers. Because where could they develop their desired effect better than in a large, dark room where you can’t see anything but the screen – except for the stupid emergency exit sign.

One of my first horror films was “Prince of Darkness” (1987), which I saw on a school trip. I was already 15 then, but my knees shook a lot afterwards. After the film, I told the story to my classmates in the bedroom. Everyone hung spellbound on my lips. In today’s smartphone era, this is hardly understandable for young people.

To this day I have a guilty conscience because I allowed myself a macabre joke with “Poltergeist III” (1986): I was in the cinema with a friend and in the row in front of us were three girls of the same age who we didn’t know. In one particularly nerve-wracking scene, I suddenly grabbed one of the girls by the shoulders from behind. She, of course, screamed the whole hall together. In my defense: shortly afterwards we both laughed about it.

You are probably from Vulgaria

You actually have to see funny films in the cinema. Because when hundreds of people laugh, you can’t escape it and just have to laugh along. I remember films that almost made me laugh, like the admittedly slippery Farrelly brothers’ films.

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One of my comedy favorites is “A Fish Called Wanda” (1988), which is crammed with gags that I still like to quote today. When, for example, the villain unleashes a very funny tirade of ranting at the protagonist, the protagonist answers dryly: “You come from Vulgaria, right?” Laughter rolled on the cinema floor.

I am your father

But my favorite category is science fiction films. The same applies here as with horror films: Science fiction only works properly in the cinema. The cinema is almost as dark and wide as space – well, almost. Unfortunately, I was too young for the first “Star Wars” film (1977), and I wasn’t allowed to see the second from 1980 either. But in 1983 the time had finally come: “The Return of the Jedi Knights” came to the cinema and I was finally part of this universe.

In science fiction, I was not only fascinated by space battles, laser duels and aliens. The technical implementation also amazed me again and again, for example in “Terminator II” (1991), which came up with previously unthinkable effects, or “Matrix” (1999), which set stylistic standards.

Incredibly good tricks

“Jurassic Park” (1993) deserves special mention: I couldn’t believe how lifelike the dinosaurs were trampling across the screen. At that time we had tried to get tickets too late and sat in the front row in the huge Berlin “Royal Palace”. This made everything much more plastic. Then when a T-Rex plastered a person for the first time, I wondered whether the film was really suitable for children from twelve.

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Afterwards I saw him again in the Berlin Waldbühne in the open-air cinema. The effect was increased by the fact that the screen is in the middle of trees and the dinosaurs really merged with their surroundings. Unforgettable.

Big drama

But it doesn’t always have to be bumpy, even heart-touching films only develop their effect in the cinema. I still remember how I brushed off a tear or two in “Club der toten Dichter” (1989), “Zeit des Erwachens” (1990) or “Garp” (1982) – all three with Robin Williams, by the way – with a friend I was in the western drama “Legends of Passion” in 1994. We didn’t have to cry, but after the film we looked at each other and took a deep breath.

The film “Flatliners” (1990) belongs more to the science fiction category. Yet he touched me like no other. The protagonists have near-death experiences and are then haunted by their unresolved sins. That made me want to make up with someone who was once very important to me. After that I felt better than I have ever felt before and I successfully resolved never to let it get that far again. So cinema has actually changed my life.

From Axel Büssem

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