On Saturday night we headed down to Somerset House for the first time to experience one of London’s most popular and unique film-viewing events: Film4’s Summer Screen with a double bill of Die Hard and Attack the Block on the cards.
We were reasonably early and so got a good spot in the beautifully roped off Guest area, allowing plenty of time for drinking cider, buying pick and mix, eating nuts and people-watching. Sitting on thin blankets was surprisingly comfortable, though the ankles suffered the most on the hard stone floor.
At half seven Alan Rickman was revealed and the relaxed crowd went wild. Gradually the cheering crowd got to their feet and applauded the great man. While I know his performance as Hans Gruber is incredibly popular, I’d like to think I wasn’t alone in giving Snape a personal standing ovation. After a few remarks on how young we all looked (what a charmer), how Die Hard was his first film and he had to do the fall without CGI, we were on to the first film.
Die Hard was as fantastic as ever and two of the fastest hours I’ve experienced. Sound and picture were perfect, something I was surprised at considering I was sitting in the courtyard of a neoclassical building. There were plenty of cheers and laughs throughout the film and a few heckles at appropriate moments. With everyone gradually moving from sitting to lying down it became one big outdoor sleepover, lovely. Unfortunately we hadn’t claimed a long enough plot, and were stuck in an awkward lying position, trying not to kick the people in front, or rest our heads in the laps of those behind.
After Die Hard there was a brief interval during which a small proportion of the audience bailed, before Joe Cornish came on to introduce his debut feature. As a veteran of the Summer Screen, Cornish seemed really excited to have his feature shown at Somerset House. One by one he was joined by a huge number of the cast who each got a quick go on the mike. Their messages to the audience varied greatly, from, “Anybody wanna play Fifa?” to “FUCK!” An adorable bunch.
With the people behind us having deserted the area we could enjoy Attack the Block exactly as was intended, flat on our backs, this time under our blankets, in a Grade I listed building. The film was just as brilliant as before, though I found I couldn’t really forgive the kids this time, despite them sitting mere metres away. Jodie Whittaker’s friends went mental for her during the closing credits, Summer Screen definitely provides a unique experience.
Stumbling home at 1:30am we were a happy bunch, though had learnt a few valuable lesson which we can implement when we return as a larger group for Princess Bride next Sunday:
1. Arrive Early: To get the best spot you want to arrive way before the film starts. Don’t complain about having to wait hours for the film to start, you’re with your friends in a beautiful setting and there’s a bar. Shut up and enjoy yourself.
2. Claim a Space as Long as Your Body: At some point during the film you will want to lie down and if you haven’t marked your territory properly this will be difficult and slightly uncomfortable. You have been warned.
3. Bring a Picnic: You can buy wraps, brownies and the traditional popcorn or pick and mix on site, but bringing an impressive spread will help wile away the hours before the film starts and stave of food envy when your better-prepared neighbours are spreading humus on brioche.
4. Pack Layers: It may be a glorious summer’s day but you are sitting still on cold stone flooring so will get gradually colder and colder. This goes double for anyone going to the triple bill on Saturday night. Nobody should die for the love of cinema.
5. Bring Lots of Cushions etc: A blanket to sit on and mark out territory is essential but so is a big, soft cushion. It will keep your ankles from agony when cross-legged and lift your head into the prime angle for film viewing when lying down.
Follow these five tips and you too can have a memorable and unique evening at the Film4 Summer Screen at Somerset House. You won’t get Joe Cornish and Alan Rickman though, sucks to be you.