A few nights ago, a friend and I were talking about the films we had just seen and were getting quite heated when discussing the length of these films. Why oh why are these films so damn long?
Theatre has had the right idea over the last few years... Many contemporary plays have taken out the intervals and you are left with a snappy, exiting production of an hour or so. Perfect.
The film world seems to have done the opposite though, producing marathon epics. After two hours, you are left dry-mouthed and numb-bummed, surrounded by fidgeting neighbours and wondering how much longer you can put off going to the loo.
Recently I saw Life of Pi. A brilliant film but still 120 minutes long, and for me, two hours is a long time to sit still. But I was fine, I went for a wee before the film, took only small sips of water and coped admirably.
Next was Les Miserables at 157 minutes. That's just over two and a half hours... watching a pretty miserable and depressing film. I'm not the biggest fan of musical theatre and being sung to for that long slightly grates, so were it not for the very handsome faces of Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman and Eddie Redmayne, I might not have made it. My friend Mark summed it up brilliantly by saying "Why do they have to sing everything? Couldn't they have just spoken some of the lines?" I'm with you there but it just slightly defeats the purpose of a musical! Two hours into the film I had already started to feel uncomfortable below. I also had cried about five times so needed more tissue... but still, I persevered. By the time the last note was sung I was sprinting out of the theatre, almost rugby tackling my neighbours in order to get to the loo first. However, five hundred women, cross-eyed and cross-legged, had got there before me and so we had to make a dash for a nearby coffee shop and made it just in time. Phew.
The final straw was Django Unchained, at an eye watering 180 minutes. Yes folks... take water, food, and any other emergency supplies because its three hours long! If you have a weak bladder you haven't a chance. I knew I didn't have a hope in hell and so I had already prepared my date that I would have to probably sit by the aisle in order to escape for a quickie (no, not that sort!). Unfortunately, it was open seating, and by the time we made our way in to the theatre, all the good seats and more importantly, the aisle seats, had gone, and we were left with the choice of front row (neck ache) or back row, 8 seats in. Oh dear. We opted for the back row and I muttered a silent prayer, hoping that for once, my bladder would magically not exist and I would be able to go the distance.
No such luck. Around the 100 minute mark I needed to go. I tried to undo my belt buckle to relieve some of the pressure, but that got a very strange look from the guy on my left, not my date, I hasten to add... That would have been indescribably awful. I waited another ten minutes, immersing myself in the Tarantino bloodshed on screen, but it was no good, I needed a wee pronto. My second dilemma then arose... How to squeeze past 8 people, not fall down the steps, find my way to the loo in record time, not miss too much of the film, and find my way back in complete darkness without tripping or being tutted at. That was a challenge.
There are many obstacles in getting out of your row alone...
Inserting your foot into a discarded popcorn box: inadvertently stepping into the loop of a handbag strap, dragging it through piles of coats and scarves until it is rescued by its angry owner: treading on toes and getting angrily 'shushed' as you quietly try and apologise: losing your balance and putting your hands on inappropriate body parts of strangers. It's an absolute minefield. But the worst thing... the most embarrassing part of going down a tiny row of people, is the dilemma of wether to face them with your front bottom or back bottom.
If you try and sidle passed with your front bottom facing, there are two possible outcomes. The first is when people remain in their seats, swivelling only their knees to let you pass. In this situation there is a high risk of grazing your breasts against someone's face as they simultaneously reach down to try and clear their things from your path. The second outcome is that people try and stand or half-stand to let you pass. In this case, you are likely to brush more than one body part together or head butt them. Neither is good.
The other approach is to try and exit your row, back bottom facing. There are also a few hazards here. I have been known to knock a mans glasses off with my rather large posterior as I swept passed. I have also taken out people's drinks, a hot dog, handbags and a flat cap. Other possibilities when facing this way is that you stumble and end up sitting in someone's lap. This has happened to me more than once and it is just the most unbelievably embarrassing thing ever. The most unsexy lap dance in the world.
On this particular occasion, 100 minutes in, and with a first date on my right, I opted for front bottom facing. I whispered "I'm so sorry I have to go to the loo". Luckily my date was a gentleman and not only stood up, picking up all my things and all of his things off the floor so I wouldn't trip over them, but I managed it all quite elegantly. Everyone else in the row half stood as I smoothly brushed passed. I didn't head butt anyone, I didn't touch anyone's body parts, no one tutted, I didn't trip over anything, I made it down the stairs and out to the loo in under two minutes so I didn't miss much of the plot, and my return journey was equally successful. I sat down in my seat and let out a really big happy sigh and got a really filthy look from my neighbour. You can't win!