Written by Films

The Orphanage

I went to see The Orphanage today, and I’ll get onto that shortly.
But first, can I just highlight what a joyless experience Cineworld made it for me. It began when I phoned the cinema’s automated ticket booking line. As is the way with these things, it’s all voice activated these days, which invariably means saying “No” repeatedly when the system thinks that you’re trying to book tickets to “The Hottie and the Nottie” or worse.
Eventually the system drops away from the pointlessly flawed voice activation system when it gets my clear instructions wrong and reverts to the somewhat more sensible button system. If my mobile phone supplier believes that’s the smarter way of doing things, why do cinemas insist in continuing to use these voice systems?
Maybe it’s the cynic in me who thinks that it’s all a ploy to get a bit more cash from the 0871 phone number. It eventually takes nearly five minutes to find out what films are on and what time my selection is showing at.
I didn’t book the film over the phone incidentally, as I thoroughly object to paying a “booking fee” for the privilege of buying my ticket automatically rather than paying a (more expensive to employ) person. In any case, it seems that half the time, the collection machines are out of action meaning that you don’t miss out on queuing anyway.
I began to regret my principled stand when I got to the cinema with just a few minutes to go before the film was scheduled to start and saw a long and trailing queue. There are only two ticket windows open out of a possible six. And despite someone putting their head into the ticket office, they don’t bother opening a further window, preferring to leave their lonely colleagues to cope with the hoardes.
I purchase my tickets (the cinema hasn’t bothered with chip and pin devices – too expensive?) and with a couple of minutes spare, I think that maybe I’ll buy some over-priced popcorn and a Diet Coke. I know why the prices are high, and to an extent accept them. So I head over to the concession stand ready to hand over many pounds. There are two long queues, but a further five people are standing behind the counter talking to another but not serving. When I approach one of them, I’m politely told that they’re not on duty and that I need to stand behind the ten kids. If staff are on a break, can I suggest they retire to a staff room rather than annoying queuing patrons?
Needless to say, Cineworld lost out on my purchase. I headed into the screen.
The adverts had just started, and I couldn’t help but notice a giant stain right down the middle of the screen. It’s right in the centre, and it’s enormous, running well over half the height of the screen. Every time we see a well lit bright scene in one of the ads, I can’t help but stare at the stain which looks like it might have been made by someone throwing a soft drink at the screen.
Fortunately The Orphanage is fairly dark, so I’m not distracted too much during the feature, although the stain is staring out at me in well lit parts of the film. But there’s one final little surprise in store. During the screening, a security guard traipses through the cinema on no less than three separate occasions. At one point (and bear in mind that this is horror/thriller film that works by building quiet suspense) his radio actually goes off and he starts to have a conversation with a colleague while he’s still inside the screen. Orange spend millions on their excellent campaigns to have customers switch their mobile phones off. But security guards can wander around the screen talking on their radios as much as they like.
The question must be asked: why do I bother going to see films in such surroundings?
Well you know what, I’ll be thinking long and hard before I go back to this particular cinema. If I’m to pay a premium price for the experience of seeing a film on the big screen, then cinemas need to actually make the whole thing an easy and pleasant experience. Today, that wasn’t the case. With large widescreen high definition TVs becoming the norm, alongside digital surround sound systems, I get a better quality experience at home. And the DVD will end up being cheaper than the price I paid to watch the film. I suggest that Cineworld and others who mismanage their multiplexes had better buck their ideas up.
So what about the film itself? Well it’s excellent. I need to be really careful about what I say about it, because it could really affect your enjoyment of the film. Suffice to say that two parents and their young son move into a large house on the Catalan coast which was once an orphanage that the mother lived in.
But their son has his some unusual friends. Are they imaginary? Are they real? I’m not going to tell you, and I’m not going to say any more about the plot except to say that it’s tone is very reminiscent of The Others. It’s well worth hunting down.