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Why I prefer film to theatre

02 Nov 2019

nablopomo19 film

Yesterday, I went with my partner to see a performance of Solaris at the Lyric Theatre. It was a production based on Stanisław Lem’s original novel, and I’ve neither seen Tarkovsky’s film adaptation nor read the source material.

I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected, despite it being something that I probably wouldn’t have gone to see had we not had some leftover theatre vouchers.

Here’s the thing: I don’t really like theatre, or musicals. But I love film.

This is more of a ramble than anything else.

Suspension of Disbelief

I’ve done a lot of thinking about this over the years and have come to the conclusion that unlike film I’m unable to suspend my disbelief.

In a theatre or musical I am constantly aware that these are real people in front of me, acting, and it’s a block I just can’t get over.

Sure, watching a film is almost the same, but having an amount of distance between myself and the characters actually helps me immerse more.

I was lucky enough to see a performance of MacBeth with James McAvoy several years ago, and my overwhelming feeling during the whole performance was “Yep, that’s James McAvoy playing MacBeth”.

Comfortable surrounding

This sounds a bit odd, but bear with me. I’m quite tall and almost all theatres in which I’ve attended performances have had less than ideal amount of leg room. If I’m constantly fidgeting trying to get comfortable, I’m pulled right out of any immersion that I have.

In last night’s performance, we had pretty good seats! There was a decent amount of leg-room and I could clearly see the facial expressions of the actors. It just feels weirdly performative and not at all real, especially when I could see various bits of stage change during scenes.

Scary books

I like horror. Not gore-y, Cannibal Holocaust-esque stuff, but proper psychological horror. The kind that leaves you properly spooked.

My partner asked me on the way home, while we were talking about immersion, whether I’d ever been scared by a book. I had a good old chuckle because it reminded us of the scene in Friends where Joey keeps his copy of The Shining in the freezer. The novel honestly didn’t do much for me, but maybe that’s because I already knew the big plot points?

And to be honest, if a book is scary I can just put it away and not read it any more. If I’m in the cinema watching a film I feel almost like I’m on a rollercoaster and I need to see it out to the end.

All in all, I think it’s because I’m a very visual person and I am engaged more by the medium of film. I want to believe that I’m there and it’s real but I find it very hard to fall into a stage performance.


November is National Blog Posting Month, or NaBloPoMo. I’ll be endeavouring to write one blog post per day in the month of November 2019 - some short and sweet, others long and boring.