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Kept In The Dark

Secret Cinema continues their underground domination...

One of the most original, immersive and downright entertaining events in the capital, Secret Cinema takes a refreshing step away from the plodding ceremony of the usual cinema going experience. As the name might suggest, the audience are not told which film is to be screened and only given the location of the venue a couple of days in advance. It’s theatre, music and cinema with a slant towards social engagement. The film is a story that takes place in a world like our own. Secret Cinema attempt to give the audience a richer cinema experience by plunging them deeper into this world by recreating it in various ways. Queuing outside the abandoned Shepherd’s Bush theatre for the screening of Wings Of Desire, the classic search for love and self-identity set in Berlin, punters were harangued in German by gloomy old men, young street urchins in tracksuits and officers demanding to see boarding passes. Inside, a band playing in bar created a café atmosphere, various rooms containing furniture and other items of that period had been constructed and the actors busily went around causing an intriguing sense of confusion. Every prop, uniform, accent and smell is a clue to the film. Secret Cinema is a must for lovers of film and the theatrical – where else puts on a live trapeze artist during the screening to mimic the scene being shown? Dazed Digital caught up with the creator and organiser Fabien Riggall...

Dazed Digital: What’s Secret Cinema about?
Fabien Riggall: The idea of the whole night is a recreation of the film. For me Secret Cinema is all about community. People always comment that it’s a much more communal event; they can sit down and have a drink, draw on the wall, strange German actors come up, people feel relaxed. It’s something hopefully a bit more meaningful than just going to the cinema; it’s something else that will hopefully inspire people to take a risk and go to something that they don’t know what it is or where it is and see what happens when they get there. It doesn’t need to be in a cinema, it can be in a town hall or in a concert venue bringing back that gig-like experience to cinema.

DD: How difficult is it to choose the films?
Fabien Riggall: I don’t really have that much difficulty because there’s a ton of amazing films that I’d love to do an event with. It’s about mood as well. I get the feeling of the general mood that month and that period. With Wings Of Desire I felt it was very hopeful, very positive, very romantic film. January is a pretty gloomy month; it was the idea of doing something that will make people think a little bit of stuff that’s important to them.

DD: What grasped you about Wings Of Desire?
Fabien Riggall: I find it a very beautiful film, it has something a bit different; it’s quite uneven. I like its imperfection. I like the fact it doesn’t have a narrative as such, it’s more a wave of characters and ideas. I think the scene at the end in which the angel meets Marion in the bar at the Nick Cave concert is an incredible scene. It’s this kind of searching idea that we’re all searching not just for love or whatever. And I think those decisions that we’re constantly making with our careers with everything. So just for that reason I thought it was really mind blowing. I think for an event it was quite a tough one to plan, because how theatrical do you make it? It was very low key that film, it’s not showy so how can I put the Secret Cinema vibe into it? But I think we hopefully did that. We mixed music with the performers from the circus and gave people that sense of discovery.

DD: Is the communal aspect what makes you different from multiplexes?
Fabien Riggall: Not trying to say we’re anyway better. The multiplex isn’t dead, they’re making a tonne of money. I think that people want something else, that’s why it’s working otherwise we’d never have a chance in hell. Multiplexes are always going to be there and people are always going to want that – I don’t always want to go an experience with lots of actors everywhere, you know, “fuck off,” but when I do want to do something different, I would love to go to a Secret Cinema event. I know that sounds weird, but I am there at every single one worrying about what’s happening.

How different have past events been?
Fabien Riggall: For Bugsy Malone we played on the feelgood factor and gave everyone in the audience a poncho and told them that Dandy Dan’s gang were outside and people need to get ready, we must have delivered 1000 custard pies to everybody. And then when the gangsters were coming out in the film we had the gangsters coming out of the same doors in the set and there was this huge splurge fight. Alien was a tough one, it’s a scary film. We were in this warehouse in Shoreditch which used to be a car show room. I put Tim Exile from Warp on a forklift in a space suit.

DD: Are there any aspects that you’ve worked particularly hard at?
Fabien Riggall: The transition between the end of the film is something we try hard to get right. This I think is where we’ve succeeded and work really, really hard. If you go and see a film for two hours, especially Wings Of Desire, you’re quite woozy after the film, so it’s how to get people out of that cycle whereby you go to the cinema then get the hell out – that’s what people do, but how do you keep them there. It’s definitely possible, but you have to work on it. We don’t have the actors walking around afterwards because then it becomes like a Disney World.

DD: How do you see Secret Cinema developing?
Fabien Riggall: I’m interested in running secret cinema in three or four European cities at the same time and then connecting them all together. If you imagine any film, every city has the right venue. And that’s what it’s about: the relationship with the venue. And the audience love the fact that they don’t know where they’re going and when they get there it’s how that that venue, before they know what the film is, why that venue? What does it mean to the film and all this? We’re looking now at how to sustain it because it’s pretty full on.

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