Words. How do you come up with words to describe the horror of what happened at the midnight screen of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado?
To a cinephile, a darkened theater is special place; equal parts cathedral, magic show, and time machine. We go to the movies to escape from the harsh realities of every day life; the politics, the bigotry, and the partisanship that are making America less a beacon of light and more a cautionary tale. We go to the cinema because we believe that somehow spending a few hours alone in the dark can restore our belief in the better part of our humanity; that by exploring the stories of lives vastly different from our own we can discover bridges between past and present, insights into culture and ideology, touchstones between people seking to live a life as best they know how. We seek cinema as an expression of not only who we are but who we can be.
I grieve today on so many levels. Foremost for the loss of life; for the wounded hearts of the men and women who watched as friends and family were pierced by angry bullets from a dispassionate gun. I grieve that the memory of the lost will be put to political purpose. That the NRA will declare that this is a perfect example of why more guns are needed in America — all the while overlooking the same murderous logic, the same lust for death, they seek to condemn.
But above all, I grieve for the loss of innocence of an entire generation of cinephiles who have just had their entire world invaded and destroyed by the very monsters they were hoping to keep at bay.
In 1982′s The Tempest, there is a scene where John Cassavetes’ character Phillip Dimitrius stands in the face of the approaching storm and whispers, “Come on, show me the magic.” For years after, each time I went to the cinema, as the lights dimmed and I wriggled myself deeper into a comfortable seat, I would whisper these same words in anticipation of the gift I was about to receive. At that moment I was a child again, my heart filled with hope and an expectation of glory. As the first flickering rays of light pierced the darkness to trace their wonders on a wall of purest white, I was transported, captivated, enraptured in the most divine sense of the word. This was my church, my school, my reason for being. The cinema taught me to feel, to embrace, to love, to experience the beauty of life, rather than judge, condemn, or hold it in contempt.
Things are different now.
The following quote is reported to be from the Twitter timeline of Alex Sullivan, one of the victims of the Aurora shooting. It was posted at 10:00 PM on July 19th:
“Oh man, one hour till the movie and its going to be the best BIRTHDAY ever.”
Things are most definitely different now.