By Colin Yap (’16)
I think that from the get go, there was a nervousness in my gut about going to the movie screening. There was all the normal trepidation present of new places and new people, but there was also my own irrational apprehension of seeing a black and white movie from nineteen-thirties Germany with two experienced film aficionados. Would they do the classic thing that I always did when showing people movies I’d already seen of staring at the newcomer to see their every facial expression? Would they leave me behind in an argument about the film’s historic moments and the characters that failed in the story telling? Would I even be able to sit through two hours of angry German dialogue (which we all know is the most intense of all the German dialogues) even with subtitles?
It was, of course, an event organized by Mr. Fabrini’s Historical Film Society (which I later learned was the name of a makeshift society that sincerely wanted to have secret handshakes and code words).
The movie was The Testament of Dr. Mabuse, a historically relevant, beautifully innovative, politically wound up, and sincerely dark film directed by the pre-eminent film director, Fritz Lang. The acting in the movie was brilliant and its plot was captivating; the hosts had both seen the film many times, and their laughs often preceded the punchline. “Oh sweet, sweet Lily, my Lily,” they would say with a chuckle as the character appeared on the screen.
The two hosts were Luca and Paolo, a freshman CW and his father. I’m pretty sure if you asked any question starting, “hey, have you seen that one movie…?” they would answer with a premature nod. It became pretty clear (because they explained it to us) that the ominous sounding “society” was really just the two of them showing other people movies they liked and considered relevant. They had rules and they had passion. I don’t think the Society was ever meant to change the world through screenings of movies (wouldn’t that be kick-ass though?), but rather an attempt to show cool people cool movies and have a chance to talk about the “why” and “when” and “what” with earnest enthusiasm, not following the tragically modern trend of only ironically appreciating things.
Before the movie started, they ran us through some a slideshow presentation, discussing the historical background of the film, the artistic mind behind its execution, and the techniques used at that age of filmmaking. There was never any pressure to take notes or not to blink during the slides, only to listen, and, being a believer in the importance of context, listen I did. It was an interesting history lesson and it told some interesting facts too.
After the movie, they gave out cream puffs for dessert and asked us, their guests, what we thought of the movie. The question was asked with sincerity, like the movie’s director was in the next room waiting to jump out and pummel us if we replied with the generic, “it was pretty good.” And so I replied, “I didn’t really like the Lily character that much.” They nodded in agreement with my sentiments, then went on discussing what they’d thought about it, both having just re-watched a film for the fifth or sixth time.
I left that night unapprehensive about the “society” and its mysteries, yet still excited, feeling ready for more black and white movies and twisting plots and ominous screenplays that never cease being relevant and interesting.