“All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.”
These are the famous last words of Roy Batty (portrayed by Rutger Hauer) in the hit 1982 dystopian sci-fi Blade Runner, as well as its six subsequent edits. This quote is a reflection on his own life and mortality but it applies to history as a whole. Unless events are preserved in writing, film, or otherwise, they can never be re-experienced. In particular, when it comes to film, some cinematic releases have become what is referred to as “lost media”. Alfred Hitchcock’s 1926 drama The Mountain Eagle and portions of 1927’s Metropolis, directed by Fritz Lang, have been taken by the sands of time, possibly never to return.
This is why it’s important to cherish what films we do have and to share them with each other. This is something that the Edinburgh International Film Festival has been doing for quite some time now. Since its inception in 1947, EIFF (as it’s often shortened to) has been home to numerous new releases from around the world. From the original Whisky Galore! (1951) to Easy Rider (1969) and Battle Royale (2000), there’s something for everyone. The festival has also provided European premieres for major blockbusters in recent years, such as PIXAR’s Brave, which opened the 2012 ceremony, reinforcing an interesting pattern that has long been seen in the festival.
Big (1988). Ghostbusters (1984). Jaws (1975). Top Gun (1986). All these movies screened at EIFF in 2018. This practice of showing older titles is relatively new in comparison to the festival itself, only dating back as far as 2011, the year in which the festival played The Terminator (1984), Grease (1978), and Shrek (2001), which returns this year as part of Film Fest in the City.
An initiative like this helps to keep films alive by keeping them in the public consciousness. For those who don’t opt to see the titles in question, at the very least it reminds them of said title’s existence. It may spark a conversation amongst friends where they reminisce if they’ve already seen it or may inspire those who haven’t seen it to give it a go. For those who do opt to see it, not only does it allow them to re-experience the story but it allows them to do so in under a new set of circumstances. Many of these films may have been released before were born, meaning, unless they’ve been lucky enough to catch a re-release or anniversary screening, they’ve likely never seen it on the big screen or with a large crowd.
The movie-watching experience is a special thing. It can be a solo activity or a group one and there’s a film for every mood. If you need a good cry, laugh, or want the adrenaline rush of fear then there’s a whole century of features to choose from. What events like EIFF offer is a communal experience. Each audience is filled with people who share the common goal of watching something together. This is great for newer releases because it allows for a first-hand experience of other people’s gut reactions. However, it’s also a fantastic way to enjoy The Classics. The audience is often more relaxed because they are familiar with elements of the plot, allowing them to fully enjoy themselves.
It’s like stepping back in time. Generally, films are only released once, making their initial audience “the ones who were there”. Replicating (to an extent) that experience creates a link between two generations of people in a way that streaming never could. Younger audiences get the chance to enjoy their parents favourite films as if for the first time. Viewings like that can help bring people closer together, even if the two generations feel like they may not have much in common. It also provides, what could be described as, a more “authentic” viewing experience. Of course, there is no such thing as an improper way to watch a film (or any piece of media) but the big screen allows for an immersion that the small screen currently can’t provide. It’s especially true for blockbusters like The Terminator and Jaws which use the size of the frame to their advantage. You feel the countless dead of the apocalypse and the vast depths of the ocean. Coupled with the luxury of surround sound speakers, a movie like Top Gun will rattle your seats and make you feel like you can fly.
A lot of people of my generation have grown up with old blockbusters. This has meant that many of the stars we grew up loving have begun to pass away, while we are still relatively young. We lost Rutger Hauer in 2019 but nobody is ever really gone if you remember them. He lives on in his work, as all actors do. Perhaps we will see Blade Runner grace EIFF screens in the future. With each new year, comes the possibility of a new classic that will be loved and, hopefully, the Edinburgh International Film Festival will still be around to show it.
Words by Beatrice Copland.
This article was written with help from Nathaniel Ashley