This past weekend we went to see a movie. It was the first time we have done so since arriving in Zürich. Six months is quite a long stretch for us to go without visiting a theatre (for those who don’t know, Stelian and I met in one, and watching movies was a fairly regular pastime of ours in Canada). But habits like these can fall away easily in a new environment…with all of the things I’ve had to learn and think about these months, it simply didn’t occur to me to go to the cinema, until a friend of ours suggested it as a weekend activity.
There are a few differences worth noting between the movie-going experience in North America and here in Zürich. First of all, as I’ve come to expect from a Swiss establishment, the building was spotless — there was nary a stray kernel of popcorn, and the floor was entirely devoid of that glutinous someone’s-spilled-their-drink-here feeling. Somehow the place managed to not even smell like popcorn, though the yellow stuff was of course being vended. Secondly, seats were assigned. We’d been advised by others to buy our tickets in advance, rather than right before the show, and when we did that we were shown a seating chart and asked if the assigned seats were agreeable to us. I can’t decide if this system is necessary or not, but we ended up with good seats without having to do the usual “well, where do you prefer to sit?” routine with our friend. And thirdly, there was an intermission. That’s right — halfway through, the film was switched off without warning, and people started filing out to use the washroom or buy more snacks. I feel that this is typical praktisch behaviour on the part of the Swiss, even though the filmmaker might declare it a travesty (I am pretty sure that they stop for intermission without too much regard for the flow of the story).
The biggest boon to seeing a movie here, however, is that there is language learning built into the deal. Since many of the movies being shown here are from the US, and since Switzerland has four official languages, you can get a variety of different things happening when you go to see a movie: original language with subtitles, voice-over with subtitles, voice-over without subtitles. A simple code is used in the newspaper and online listings: the language that the film is being shown in is indicated by a capital letter, and the subtitles are listed in lower-case. So, for example, the movie we went to see was E/d/f — it played in English, with both German and French subtitles running along the bottom of the screen.To me, it was very fun (and educational) to be able to listen to everything in English while simultaneously reading in German. I have to admit that the movie we saw wasn’t high Art: it was The Hangover 2 (not my choice, but I was outvoted). The great thing about it, though, was that in contrast to the stiff sort of language that our German lesson book teaches us (“How are you?” “I am well.” “The weather today is fine, isn’t it?” “Yes, and I am soon going on vacation.”) I picked up a lot of casual, everyday sayings that may serve me equally well (things like “we are so lost” and “this is going to be fun”).
So, perhaps we’ll consider going to the movies more often a worthwhile investment. A movie ticket in Zurich costs about 18 francs, which probably sounds very steep to you North Americans, but to someone getting accustomed to how much things cost in Switzerland, it actually seems not so bad (and what is a ticket in Canada these days anyway — $12 or $13 by now?). Besides, isn’t learning how to say “I woke up in Bangkok and I can’t remember anything and your brother is missing and we’ve somehow acquired a monkey” pretty much priceless?