We live in a society where hardly anything is secret anymore. Our personal lives are shared across the internet with any number of strangers being able to see what we’ve been up to, people can track our location from our mobile phones and even know where we’ve been going virtually (online). We know all this and we don’t seem to care. But our choice in entertainment seems to speak differently – what I’m talking about is the rise of the secret experience.
Last week I experienced Secret Cinema for the first time. It was terrifying, amazing, exhilarating and takes the experience of watching a film to the next level. What Secret Cinema do is take a film, create its world and immerse you in it. Attendees have no idea what the film is until they most likely guess it when they find themselves inside it. Clues are given from the moment you buy your ticket and find yourself being emailed an identity followed by strange orders and a dress code. The whole of Secret Cinema’s social media becomes an extension of the world of the film – and yet the clues planted are so subtle and cleverly crafted that you’d have to know the film inside out and backwards to guess it.
I’ve always loved films due to the way they can totally pull you into their world, so I find the idea of actually making this immersion inherent in the medium a reality to be a brilliant move. The theatrical immersion prelude to the film itself is constructed so as you find yourself experiencing emotions and experiences similar to those portrayed in the film; you can then watch the film with a heightened sense of recognition down to the smallest detail such as a vehicle you took your journey in being exactly the same as one in one frame of the film. I can’t say much about the specifics of the event I attended so as not to spoil the secret – all I’ll say is it’s a film lover’s paradise and if you love film you should go.
What’s interesting is the rise of secret events and experiences on offer and how these are taken up with relish. Secret Cinema has this time expanded what their offering to include a Secret Hotel and Secret Restaurant and are considering the idea of Secret Airlines. What is it about secret worlds that we’re so drawn to?
I’ve been to a number of immersive events (not necessarily all secret in location) and I’ve always had a similar thrilling feeling of being involved in something so removed from the everyday world. At one point in the Secret Cinema experience a large group of us had to walk through a certain area of East London – all of us dressed in 1940s suits and garnering a number of odd looks. It’s this feeling of being in on a secret, of knowing you’re not in the same world as everyone else but a new shared world with a group of people similarly in the know that is so exciting. Similarly I always experience a strange sensation upon leaving these events – a feeling that someone else (slightly hyperbolically) suggested may be similar to that of an astronaut returning from space. Dislocation, a knowledge that you’ve been somewhere else extraordinarily different from this train you are now sat on.
I have a feeling that our desire for such experiences may have something to do with the reality in which we now live. Is it that our world and the experiences we have have become so heightened that our entertainment has to push itself further in order to make an experience better than reality. The advent of film and television provided an escapist portal from the world; now that we are living inside screens, in a mode of almost constant escape from reality (or of fragmented reality at least) has our escapism now transcended into a real life experience? Are we so shut off from reality by our screens, our headphones and our privacy that in order to escape we want to be part of an artificial/alternate world that feels really real? Or perhaps our love of such events is all to do with their exclusivity; the feeling of being inside this private club with a group of strangers, all expressly ordered to ‘Tell No-One’ – the exciting initial lure into Secret Cinema’s website.
It’s difficult to explain the thrill of the secret experience, something you can only really understand by experiencing it perhaps, but it’s hugely interesting and I’m sure there is more to say on the matter.