Basement Films: A Childhood Apocalypse

Sean Strain

Recently, I passed an old theater I used to go to as a child, or the rubble of it. After being closed down and left to decay for several years, the theater has been torn down and construction is currently under way to create a new purpose for the land.

I remember some details about the theater and my experiences there. I remember that the ceiling above the concession stand was a mirror and I would tilt my head all the way back to see my reflection. I would always get my dad to buy me a hot dog wrapped in foil to keep it warm. Before any movie, I would play Tekken or Soul Calibur in the arcade. Once a connection to your childhood is dynamited to oblivion, you sometimes get in a contemplative mood.

First I want to talk about a French film that relates to this, though the connection may not be apparent at first. Delicatessen is a black comedy that takes place in post-apocalyptic France. It is a world that is desolate and no food grows, forcing an entire apartment complex to resort to a lottery to decide who will be dinner that night.

The France represented in the movie is not the glittering land of romance we often imagine. It is a gloomy world with a smog that permeates the air. It is a near lifeless place that you could see in such movies as Mad Max or 28 Days Later. While they are works of fiction, they do remind us that everything in this world is not eternal, but actually capable of decay, damage, or death. The Mona Lisa could be ruined by simply slashing it with a knife; your neighbor could leave this life by simply crossing the street.

This is one thing that I think about when I see the wreckage of the theater. Every connection we have to our past could one day be wiped away or we could completely lose our memories as we fall into dementia. Perhaps that’s why we take so many pictures or produce so many videos, so that we will have proof of our existence after we’re gone. Much like the graffiti in bathroom stalls, there will be something to tell the world that we were here.