Edible Cinema: can food really enhance a film?

Date:30-10-2013 08:58:45 read:7

Edible Cinema: can food really enhance a film?

Edible Cinema seeks to use food to improve your film experience – as long as you aren't annoyed by the sound of people chewing, that is

Film fodder: the Edible Cinema experience is fun, if gimmicky 

First things first: I hate food in cinemas. Whether it's the crunch of popcorn, the slurping of drinks or the malodorous whiff of cheesy nachos – I find it all infuriatingly distracting, and what’s more, unnecessary. I accept that anyone who is about to, say, climb Everest requires a decent supply of fuel – why you need a super-sized coke, a box of popcorn and two family bags of Maltesers to sit on your behind for two hours is something I’ve never quite grasped.

So it was with some trepidation that I went along to an screening hosted by Edible Cinema, an initiative which seeks to use the smells, textures and tastes of food to “enhance” the cinema-going experience. The idea is that every guest is given a tray containing bite-sized bits and pieces in numbered boxes. At specific moments in the film, an usher will reveal a number corresponding to a certain box, indicating what should be opened when.

The film I went to see was a special Hallowe'en screening: the 1981 comedy/horror classic An American Werewolf in London, shown in partnership with Bombay Sapphire at the plush Electric Cinema in Notting Hill. When the first numbers were lit up, I was rather sceptical – having to scrabble around for the right box felt distracting, and in the dark, it wasn’t always obvious which box was which (One drink didn’t have a number, so had to be established as number six by a panicked process of elimination). Many of the links between screen and snack also felt tenuous – a tiny vial of gin and chilli-infused blue curacao, to be drunk as our werewolf hero David's transformation began, didn’t really add much to the scene, while working out how to drink it without spilling liquid everywhere deprived me of several valuable seconds of screentime.

Other moments were more successful. Eating food you can’t really see is always unnerving, and the event was at its best when it tapped into this to unsettle the audience. When the camera focused on the tramps David would soon devour, for example, we were invited to pull out a “tramp’s finger” made from cola-smoked quail, complete with charcoal nail. Not only did it elicit delighted groans and shrieks from the viewers, it was also perfectly timed to sharpen anticipation for the gruesome acts our werewolf hero was about to commit.

At other points, the food worked to trigger a straight laugh (jiggling marshmallow breasts, anyone?), or to set a scene. My favourite was the liquid-filled syringe, used to match the scene when David wakes up in hospital. Containing Bombay Sapphire, nettle cordial and vodka, it tasted so sharply medicinal it immediately evoked the atmosphere of a hospital – a really clever use of flavours. Similarly effective was the moment when David was shown eating his hospital breakfast. We were instructed to open a suitably vile box containing dried bacon shreds, a gummy egg sweet and a mushy jelly baked bean that made me recoil to touch - you can see why the poor man didn’t have much of an appetite.

By the end of the evening, I was surrounded by as many tiny crumpled boxes as poor David was gun-toting police officers, and lots of laughing faces. I can’t quite shake the feeling that Edible Cinema is a little gimmicky, but it is also undeniably fun. It turns a night at the cinema into a crowd-drawing special event – certainly, I didn’t see any empty seats on Sunday night. In a world of instantly-streamable films at home and rampant piracy, where the future of the cinema is looking more and more uncertain, this is something to be thankful for. Even if you do have to put up with the sound of rows of people masticating.

    Ever For Health Copy Rights 2013