The film started ten minutes ago, says the man as he hands us our prebooked tickets. Another young man shows us down the stairs and through doors marked ‘Screen 2’ into darkness. There’s no light coming from the screen and it’s so dark in there I can’t see a thing. Fortunately the usher turns on one of those muffled torches and I slavishly follow his weak green light until it stops and hovers, presumably at the end of a row with vacant seats in it. By using his circle of light as a rough guide to where he is standing, then calculating from this where his ear might be, I lean towards it to whisper my gratitude, and accidentally kiss him on the eyelid.
The film is an Austrian subtitled film called What Is Love (without the question mark). The synopsis on the London Film Festival website says it is a meditation on our relationships with each other and with God. I chose the film carefully from a diverse list. I’ve chosen successfully, it seems, because as we feel our way along the row to our seats, I can sense that the people around us are already engrossed enough to be irritated by the disturbance.
We sit and settle. Then she stands again and slowly, regally, divests herself of her cashmere coat. On the screen the scene changes to a middle-aged couple seated at a table. They are having a heart-to-heart in front of the single, centrally placed, static camera. ‘On a scale of one to ten,’ says the man, ‘how much would you say you loved me?’ The woman thinks for a few moments and says, ‘One or two.’ This draws cruel titters from some members of the audience.