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Banbury Cross

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Post details: Kinoautomat


At 1967 World Expo fair in Montreal, Czechoslovakia caused some stir with one of the first interactive movies called "Kinoautomat" - a black and white film that periodically stopped and asked audiences to choose between one of the two possible continuations of the story. For instance a scantily clad woman gets locked out of her apartment and knocks at her married neighbor's door - will he let her in? Or that same neighbor under a severe time constraint is stopped by a police - should he just pay the fine or step on it and induce a car chase? Well, you decide.

Sadly, shortly after the movie was made, the Soviet tanks crushed whatever little freedom Czechoslovakia had and the revolutionary movie, a brainchild of Raduz Cincera, was labeled as "reactionary" and put to ice for more than 30 years. Fortunately, on the occasion of its 40th anniversary, a Prague movie theater "Svetozor" (in the middle of Wenceslaus Square) decided to resurrect the original project and return it onto the silver screen. Thanks to a tip from a good friend of mine, I too got to see the movie that so far I only heard about. Armed with a little TV remote, I had seven opportunities to steer the course of the narration. The screen split, you got to see few seconds of either possibility, then short suspense as the votes were tallied, the loud disappointed sighs of people who didn't get their plot-building wish fulfilled and off we went! Onward to another branch of the plot diagram.

Now I am not advocating that all movies should come with 128 possible endings, but a little variation could revitalize the all too predictable movie industry. Say after 60 minutes you'd get your first choice and then 15 minutes before the end your second. That is four endings altogether. Sure, it would entail a bit more of creative writing and some extra footage, too, but imagine the throngs of curious people that would go and see the movie multiple times just to enjoy all the variants: the happy end, the tragedy, the scene nobody really figured out, the surreal finale,...

Take E.T. for instance. How many children's hearts would have been saved from a severe stress if the little critter had really stayed, as beseeched. Or, if it turned into a Teenage Ninja Turtle upon being kissed. Come on Hollywood, throw us some bone.


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