A Hole in the Screen

Source: Daniel Moyano, ‘A Hole in the Screen’, in Ian Breakwell and Paul Hammond (eds.), Seeing in the Dark: A Compendium of Cinemagoing (London: Serpent’s Tail, 1990), p. 39

Text: In the 1940s we lived alongside a cinema, in a small town lost in the southern pampas of Argentina. The cinema was immediately adjacent to our house, so that every night we could hear the film and imagine what was on the screen. All of us that is except uncle Eugenio, who had never been to see a film, saying that it was all a fraud, all illusion, and that when the lights went up and all the characters disappeared the screen was no more than a rag. When he saw us coming back from the movies every Sunday, discussing the film, he would say, ‘I don’t believe it. I never would have credited that people would talk about these illusions as if they’d really taken place.’ He regarded us as stupid and ignorant. If the film had a sad ending aunt Delicia, who always took anybody’s love affair for her own, would return home crying. ‘Poor thing,’ she’d sob, thinking about the heroine, and she’d get undressed so that she could carry on crying in bed. Uncle Eugenio would get mad with frustration, utterly unable to find the words to refute the fact that illusions might provoke real tears.

We convinced him in Holy Week. They were showing a film, The Life of Christ, and though this was clearly an illusion as well it had taken place in real life, and uncle was very much a believer. He went in acting very worried, looking at people as though ashamed that they were seeing him in a cinema. But five minutes into the film he was as possessed as he was when he was down at the football stadium watching a match.

When uncle Eugenio saw Judas striking a bargain with the Romans he cried out ‘I can’t stand this!’ and ran out of the movie theatre. He appeared with his shotgun just at the moment when Judas was handing over his master. And so as not to hurt anyone inadvertently uncle Eugenio waited until the apostle was some way from the rest of the crowd.

The hole in the screen coincided with screams and the lights going up and the immediate disappearance of the images. In the midst of the smell and dust of his incredible deed, and the smoke from the gunshot, it was uncle Eugenio who seemed like an illusion.

Comment: Daniel Moyano (1930-1992) was an Argentinian novelist and short story writer. Seeing in the Dark is a collection of commissioned reminiscences of cinemagoing.

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