One of the best movie experiences of my life was watching John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place on a 13.5” MacBook Pro screen with puffy $20 over-ear headphones. I was visiting my then-girlfriend (now wife)’s family in Maryland for a holiday. As most family holiday gatherings go, it was cramped with people, luggage, and anything but space. When I couldn’t sleep and everyone else was out cold, I wanted to watch a movie. The idea of turning on the TV never crossed my mind; I was too uncomfortable for that. Enter: my laptop, headphones, and A Quiet Place.
I knew I was committing a mortal sin against cinema, at least that’s what I believed. “This goes against the intentions of the filmmakers,” the voice inside my head complained, “You’re not even watching the same movie as them.” In 2018, I hardly watched any movies this way. In fact, I still mostly stick to the biggest screen I have available when possible. That’s why I watched A Quiet Place that night rather than Seven Samurai or some other movie I viewed as more prestigious than a first-time director’s horror debut. If it was a crime to watch a movie on a 13.5” screen, it couldn’t be something the mobs of Film Twitter could come after me for.
One hour and thirty-five minutes later, I took off my headphones that had more than a few drops of sweat dripping from them—and felt dirty. Not only had I sinned against cinema, but I enjoyed it. I noticed the sweat, which baffled me because I wasn’t hot at all and rarely sweat; it was strictly empathy-sweat, a first for me. For the entire length of the runtime, I felt utterly immersed in the film. In particular, the sounds of A Quiet Place, when listened to through my bulky headphones, felt unlike anything I had ever experienced in a movie or television viewing before.
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