Date Night #6: The Force is strong with this one…
Ah date night. That wonderful night when you screw your courage to the sticking point and put yourself out there for one more spin on the merry-go-round of love. This one took place at a secret location somewhere in London, where the evil Empire was trying to suppress a Secret Cinema screening of the rebel propaganda movie The Empire Strikes Back…
While it’s certainly not hard to find girls out there who are passionate fans of the Star Wars films, my girlfriend V. is definitely not one of them. Sure, she did recently buy me the complete saga boxset on BluRay, but it was under the strict condition that I never ask her to watch any of them. A condition that has now been broken.
Which is not to say she hasn’t seen any of the films – a few years ago she watched the three prequel films, and described the plot to me thusly: “So it’s about a little boy who’s basically Harry Potter, and he meets some space wizards who teach him magic, and then he gets older and falls in love with a princess, and then he falls into a volcano or something. I dunno, I fell asleep through most of it.” So it’s probably fair to say that when I managed to secure tickets to Secret Cinema’s new big summer event, a bells and whistles production revolving around a screening of The Empire Strike’s Back, she was less than enthused. And was then even less enthused when I revealed we’d have to watch A New Hope, the first film in the original trilogy first, so she’d know who all the characters were, an experience she was looking forward to about as much as you would a spot of root canal surgery from a partially blind and wholly drunk dentist.
But to my surprise she actually enjoyed it, or at least didn’t hate it, and so the upcoming trip started to get a bit more exciting. If you haven’t been to a Secret Cinema screening before then you’ve been missing out. These guys pick classic films and then create incredible interactive experiences around them, and in the past they’ve had screenings of The Shawshank Redemption in prison-style environments and recreated Blade Runner’s neon streets in a warehouse in Canary Wharf. Last year they embarked on their most ambitious project yet – A whole summer of Back to the Future screenings, held in a perfect recreation of the Hill Valley town square. I was lucky enough to attend and it was absolutely brilliant, with skateboard chases around the square timed perfectly to the events on the screen.
Most of the Secret Cinema events require people to dress appropriately for the film, but after spending a few hours looking at myself in the mirror wearing my Jedi bathrobe, I decided I couldn’t quite face going out in public wearing, essentially, a towel. Of course, when we got there, Jedi bathrobes were everywhere. Without wanting to ruin the experience too much, it’s safe to say that the lead up to the film was thrilling, as we ran through Star Wars inspired locations (and avoided Stormtroopers) to get to the screening. The level of detail Secret Cinema put into these events is incredible, and V. nearly jumped out her skin when an ‘alien’ suddenly barrelled past her at one point, while muttering loudly to himself about the Empire. We also got to have a spiritual conversation with a Jedi, and I almost found myself thrown into a rather grim looking jail cell, after a looking at a Stormtrooper for just a little bit too long.
If there were any complaints, it was that unlike last year’s Back to the Future screening, there were far less ‘interactive’ bits during the screening itself – and perhaps that was just down to the fact that ‘Empire, while being a great film, just doesn’t have that many set-pieces. But the atmosphere of the crowd more than made up for it, and on more than one occasion, getting swept up in the cheers of fellow fans made for some truly magical moments.
Even V. agreed that it was a surprisingly good date, and I couldn’t quite express how grateful I was that she’d come on a journey with me that took us all the way to outer space and back. In the end, I just went with that old chestnut, “I love you”. She looked at me, winked, and replied “I know”.
If you’d like help the Rebels crush the evil Empire, Secret Cinema’s presentation of Empire Strikes Back is running every evening (except Mondays) until Sunday 27th September, and you can secure your departure tickets here.
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