I've been up there in the projection booth for a few showings of Foxcatcher, was in the audience for one. When I'm in the booth, it's not uncommon that I'll be doing work, my back to the screen, oftentimes the soundtrack dialed low. I always know when Fotcatcher is getting close to the end when I feel the booth shake. Every time the film reaches its climax, the whole theatre jumps, rattling the room.
Based on the real-life relationship between a pair of wrestling brothers and a wealthy eccentric, the ending of Foxcatcher is no secret. Most press about the movie mentions the cold facts of the film's ending. But I won't say a word because I've been shushed, had the air in front of my mouth swatted at if even I begin to speak about something that is public and historic knowledge. A few times I've received the scold, "No spoilers."
Gillian Flynn's novel Gone Girl, about the disappearance of a wife and the suspicion of her husband, was ravenously read in 2012. Its twist is Hitchcockian. Exposed to open air for 3 years, I should be able to talk openly about the winding road the story takes, but I wouldn't dare. There's not a tall enough tree in Guelph to string me up from if I dared reveal even an iota of the plot. David Fincher's film of Flynn's adaptation of her own book was widely anticipated and widely seen. This long after The Empire Strikes Back, everyone knew Darth Vader was Luke's father.
I didn't read Flynn's novel, but word of the story made it to me before seeing the adaptation. Even knowing the story, none of the suspense was lost when I saw Gone Girl. Fincher manages a sort of memory wipe, a hermetic experience that's indicative of a sturdy movie. If a good movie can suspend our disbelief, it can likewise suspend our intelligence.
I understand the spoiler embargo. Knowing no backstory makes for a special experience of discovery with film or literature or television. But I'm not fond of the opinion that the culture of No Spoilers creates. It turns art, or entertainment, or however you want to classify the books, movies, or TV you're gobbling, into mere plots, a moving point form list of things that happen. It treats the destination as more important than the journey, if you will.
Maybe one the most famous No Spoilers campaign came from the aforementioned Alfred Hitchcock for the release of Psycho. From the outset, Hitchcock went so far as to buy up as many copies of Robert Bloch's original novel as he could, trying to scorch that earth. Upon the film's release, viewers were urged not share the reveals -- SPOILERS: Marion Crane dies halfway through the movie, Norman Bates is Mother -- but of course I saw the film 35 years after the twists were public knowledge and the effect wasn't diminished. Because Hitchcock's classic is greater than its secrets. It envelops us in such a way that our innocence is somewhat restored.
And take Sunset Boulevard, which opens with struggling screenwriter Joe Gillis floating dead in a pool. From the the getgo, we know how the movie will end. Narrating, Gillis tells us outright that he will die. He shows us the bobbing proof. Does this spoiler corrupt the experience? No. We hang on not to find out how the film ends, but to understand why it ends. I went into Foxcatcher knowing what would happen, and still I jumped, signalling to the projectionist that night that the film was about to end again.