Watching by Not Watching

Or Why in-flight entertainment is so entertaining

I’m not a big fan of watching movies. I do not frequent the cinema regularly nor do I sit in front of the television to catch some movie premiering for the 200th time on the 20th channel. I don’t know what else I do with that time- but I don’t watch movies. Sure I do watch some movies- either movies that are huge, making waves that are powerful enough for their ripples to reach my corner of the non-movie world or movies that come highly recommended by family.

A few weeks ago my mother was talking to me about wanting to watch this French film that was making headlines and getting rave reviews- “Intouchables” she said. It didn’t ring a bell. I asked her what it was about and she proceeded to tell me the plot which was about this rich paraplegic who gets this black caretaker and I went “Oh wait! I’ve seen that movie. It was on the flight.” Of course I deserved the “You watched a movie and you didn’t bother to find out its title?” look but that was until I told her the full story.

Intouchables- And how!

So everytime I board a long distance flight- it is safe to assume that I won’t be watching a movie. Except that it isn’t. The screen in front of me is sure to be switched off for the duration of the flight and yet I am sure to have caught at least two movies on an average from a 9 hour flight. How? Simple – by peeking at the screens of my neighbours.

Sure business class is awesomely posh and the seats are so far away that it is hard to watch movies on another person’s screen without positively looking at that person’s screen (if you catch my drift), but dear old cattle class economy is a boon for passive movie watchers such as myself- without even making an effort your eyes are privy to at least 3 screens from where you are seated- more if you are cramped somewhere in the middle- but I will not subject myself to the torture of being squished in from 8 different directions just for the sake of a few more movies.

Somehow movies on another person’s screen always seem more interesting than any movie that I could myself be watching on the screen in front of me. I can’t exactly describe what makes it so rivetting. Maybe it feels like I’m not just watching one movie but a movie within a movie- I’m observing the person reacting to the movie. Or is it that I’m so lazy that I can’t be bothered to even switch on my screen and am grateful to someone else near me who has and can therefore freeload on their movie (“could you switch to channel 18 please- I’d much rather watch that movie- thank you!”). It could also be that if the movie turns out to be a bad choice or has a rotten ending- I didn’t choose to watch it in the first place! Or maybe I’m just being environment friendly by not using additional energy to power an extra screen.

Subtitles are a boon- I don’t have to use my brain to wonder about the plotline. Unless they are in a language I do not even remotely understand. Two neighbours simulataneously watching different movies that both seem interesting and then switching off their screen after the end is also miserable- little do they realise how much they have spoilt your movie experience. There are times when I don’t peruse other screens- like when people are only watching music videos or just for laughs clips. Ugh!

In my opinion the only thing your own aircraft screen is good for is to watch the flight information monitor-”what? the craft has moved only 5 inches in the last half an hour?” or “I really needed to know that the temperature outside is -51C right now” or “Wow! So that is where Ulan Bator is- now I know!” Fun right?

So anyway it seems that I had unwittingly watched about 75% of the Intouchables (only because they cut out the entertainment system as the flight was about to land) without realising that it was the “Oh so awesome French movie that is so getting rave reviews!” And of course that was not the only movie I watched- I also watched this other German movie about this lady in East Germany who is relegated to a provincial hospital for something she did. Her boyfriend is trying to help her escape and so on until the end which made the person actually watching it exclaim “Unbelievable” and I could not have agreed with her more. I actually knew what the name of the movie was but I’ve forgotten now. It was a German woman’s name- “Brigitte?” “Ingrid?”- something to that effect anyway. I would have watched more movies except that I also had a really interesting book in my hand and the flight time was only 10 hours.

Anyway the next time you’re watching something on in-flight entertainment- choose wisely, the amusement of others also depend on it. Not that it should matter to you anyway- which is why I always pack a book.
PS: The German film was “Barbara”. I googled itjust now!

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