"My neighbour Totoro", and more mysteries at the Prince Charles Cinema

The Prince Charles Cinema are running a series of Japanese animation classics lately. I had thought of going, but you know how these things are: you think of doing something but never actually DO that. So when a couple of days ago Christian suggested we all* go watch the movie, a little bit school trip like, I couldn't reject the invitation!

And there we went, after completing our late-afternoon conference calls with everyone on the Pacific timezone, and rushing through a very quick dinner in a very meat-centric place. We were expecting the cinema to be packed, so had bought the tickets in advance, just in case, but... There were probably ten more people in the cinema. Admittedly it could be much worse, as I have been to screenings where there was only another person on the room, but still!

So we sat --or should I say we sank-- in the new deep and leathery seats, and started watching the movie. It was all normal, until...

HOP! Image frozen!

And I think we all were thinking: "Computers!!!". We waited for about a minute, and quietly expressed our surprise in whispers, as one does in the UK (or a UK), and the movie resumed playing.

This happened twice more; at some point they even half-way turned the cinema lights on, as in "go away, nothing else to do here". It was very puzzling, increasingly so. We were attributing it to all sorts of reasons: either screen savers kicking into action, a defective DVD, power save mode, whatever. No one showed up or told us what was going on exactly, though we could hear an increasingly heated discussion in a way that looked like it came from the projection room, but never an official announcement blazing through the speakers.

It is no surprise, then, that I was somehow expecting to get showered in apologies when we got out of the cinema, when (or if) the movie finished. I passed through the second set of doors, somehow anticipating a very sorry person wishing to explain what had happened and stuff, but the only thing I saw was the closed bar and a huge void filling the rest of the cinema. Upstairs, the counter lights were off, the street door wide open to the wet British Summer night. No human presence at all.

Had our projectionist been a ghost? The ghost of the cinema? (a close relative of the Phantom of the Opera?) Or, somehow in line with the mysterious hypothetic alternate meaning of the movie: had we actually watched a movie? Had it been an illusion? Even further: are we all ghosts?


* Where "all" means the London-based Mozillians