Thursday, January 27, 2011

German Cinema is Trying to Sap My Will to Live

A German theater tried to take away my will to live today.  It was not successful, but it is good at its job.

I felt like seeing a movie this evening...hadn't seen one in a while, and kind of had a craving for popcorn too.  So, I settled on Tron: Legacy at the Alexanderplatz here in Berlin.  I know it will be expensive, because my experience so far is that not a single theater plays Tron or Green Hornet in anything other than 3D, and they charge 5 euros more for that dubious luxury.  But hey, I'm up to try it.

I see in the concession line (so-called because its products require many concessions to obtain) that the prices there are about the same as the U.S.  I want a combo, and here's what happens with the guy at the counter:

Me: Do you have butter for the popcorn?

Food Drone: Yes.

Me:  Ok, ich will einmal Menu Nummer Zwei (medium popcorn plus medium Diet Pepsi...I mean, Pepsi Light(

Drone: So, you want sweet popcorn, right?

Me:  Nein, mit Salz und Butter

Drone gets food, sets down a dry bag of popcorn

Me:  Wo ist der Butter?

Drone:  We do not have that.

Me:  But I just asked you if you did and you said yes!

Drone:  Oh, sorry.  It is made with butter.

I grumble my way upstairs...many stairs, as Kino 9 is on the top floor.  I am carrying a lot and, as is my wont, one of my shoes is untied.  On the last escalator, I sprawl forward and slam my right knee on the step, popcorn flying everywhere.  It is good that no one is around to hear me.  For all I know the detritus popcorn is still pushing against the top of the escalator like sea foam.

One of the (mostly) annoying things about German theaters is that they assign you seating.  This does have some advantages, I guess, such as being able to get a ticket early and not having to wait in line.  But mostly I don't like it, because a big part of what I'm looking for in a seat is to not sit right next to a stranger, and with this system one doesn't really have control over that, nor the chance to just get a lay of the land before selecting a seat.  I'm the first person in the theater, but I go to row 16, seat 24, now quite annoyed.

There are about 20 commercials and maybe 10 previews before the film.  Disturbingly, the previews for American films are dubbed into German.  Lots of other Europeans don't understand why Germans so often prefer their foreign films dubbed instead of subtitled, but they do.  I begin to wonder if I mistakenly bought a ticket for Tron dubbed into German.  The ticket has some abbreviations on it, but appears to say, "with subtitles" so that seems promising.  Not only that, but when I bought my ticket, I had to speak some English to the seller because I couldn't understand when he asked me if I needed 3D glasses.  Surely he would have asked me if I knew the film was in German.  Half hour later...that does not sound like Jeff Bridges.  Unbelievable.  I'm off immediately to get my money back.

The knee is not feeling great at this point, so moving downstairs isn't pleasant.  When I get to the ticket-taker, he says, "all our films are in German here, sir."  Well then here's a tip, friend-o, when somebody buying a ticket says he doesn't understand a relatively simple statement auf Deutsch, maybe you ought to check with him on that.  Anyway, I've left my ticket at my seat in the theater, and he won't give me my money back without it.  I ask if he's really going to make me go back up there and bother all the patrons in my row two more times, and he says yes.  I muster my composure and avoid an international incident in the process.

Do I dare try this again tomorrow or Saturday at a theater I know shows the English version?  Ok, it's not the greatest cliffhanger ever, but cut me some slack.

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