Monday 18 June 2012

Another First World problem

Indulging on a chilly winter's day in a Sunday afternoon movie on TV (The Adjustment Bureau: started intriguingly, got silly), I came across a bit of a disadvantage to travel. "That's the Rockefeller Centre," I couldn't help saying as we watched. "Look, that's the observation deck, there's Central Park, the Empire State, the Chrysler building." Etc, etc.

If you've been to the location of a movie or TV series, it's hard to suspend 100% of your disbelief any more. Even when you have the self-control not to irritate your companions with that tedious "Been there!" skiting, you can't help but note it to yourself, and remember what it was like to be there, what you did and saw, and so on. It's very distracting. How can you get fully caught up in the terror of the swirling Dementors in Harry Potter, say, when you're simultaneously thinking, "That's the Millennium Bridge! Walked over that"?
I wonder if directors think about that, when they're selecting locations? They clearly spend, or have their people spend, so much time and effort tracking down the perfect setting for the various scenes of the movie, like the South Island's scenic splendour for Lord of the Rings, for example - do they ever think about all the people in the audience nudging each other and whispering, "Glenorchy!" or "Kawarau River!" while a vital bit of action that took days to film flits by virtually unnoticed, story-wise? And what about all the others thinking, "Wow! Fabulous mountain/beach/lake, I'd love to go there"? NZ gives tax advantages to film-makers because the exposure is so valuable touristically - but isn't there a downside, artistically?

On the other hand, I do watch some movies just because of the locations: the latest Mission Impossible for instance, and the dreadful Stardust, so there's that. But generally, though having got about a bit makes me pay somewhat more attention and even empathise more with the local people, it's frequently the wrong kind of attention: all the detail about the recent Euros football fan riots in Warsaw, for instance, passed me by completely, distracted as I was by spotting the plastic palmtree and General de Gaulle's striding feet. It's a heavy burden.

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