Thought for the Month… Sanctuary of the Cinema

Cinema is my sanctuary. A warm room. A comfortable chair. A sweet drink. My phone is turned off. There are no other distractions. Just a silver screen that transports me to distant lands, different times, other people’s lives. I wonder if this sanctuary that connects me to worlds beyond my own is not simply a form of escapism, but rather a gateway to something more significant?

CS Lewis, the Oxford academic and beloved children’s author, wrote about the idea of “thin spaces”: places where heaven and earth draw near. His most famous one was a wardrobe where evacuee children could discover the magical world of Narnia. He also used the painting of a majestic ship to transport his characters, and indeed his readers, to life on an ocean far away. For Lewis, these aesthetic experiences that fire our imagination give us moments of transcendence.

Some mornings as I cycle to Henley station and the sunrise is turning the sky gold and an eerie mist is rising off the Thames where early morning rowers are powering their way under the bridge, I experience our natural world as a thin space. Sometimes I get that sense from a chance encounter, or from a meaningful conversation. But most often I feel it in the cinema. When I am confronted by something aesthetically beautiful or philosophically profound, or when I see the world through someone else’s eyes, I feel like I am on holy ground. Think of the emotional rollercoaster of The Shawshank Redemption, the tragedy of Life is Beautiful, the cinematography of Parasite or the disturbing challenge of Lion. These films capture our imaginations and force us to reflect on our preconceived ideas of life and death and hope and faith. They make us ask what if? what next? what for? In short, they make us wonder.

Dr Krish Kandiah

Dr Krish Kandiah is a recent resident of Henley. He is a regular broadcaster on Radio 2 and Radio 4 and will be leading a series of discussions on Henley’s favourite movies and their connection to faith at the D:two centre opposite the Town Hall on Sundays at 6pm. You can vote for your favourite movies here.