Art house films return to Halifax

Carbon Arc Cinema is back, cinephiles rejoice

On Oct. 15, Carbon Arc Cinema hosted a full-capacity screening of French director Mia Hansen-Løve’s new film Bergman Island, and for the first time since March 2020, people in peninsular Halifax had a place to see a movie other than Cineplex Cinemas Park Lane.  

“We show things because they’re not getting shown,” said Kenny Lewis, the chair of Carbon Arc’s board of directors and the cinema’s projectionist.  

This fall, as it did prior to the pandemic, Carbon Arc will be showing a host of films found literally nowhere else in Halifax at the Museum of Natural History. Lewis said the ultimate goal is still to find a permanent location for Carbon Arc to be a cinematheque, showing a variety of films throughout the week.  

Currently, Carbon Arc screenings are on Fridays, or Fridays and Saturdays if the film will have a socially-distanced screening.  

For Halloween weekend, on Oct. 29, the cinema is screening the German director F.W. Murnau’s 1926 silent classic Faust, which will be made extra special by a live accompaniment from improvisational music ensemble, New Heritage.  

Maintaining an audience during the pandemic 

During the pandemic, with many independent theatres forced to lose their main source of profit, the term ‘virtual cinema’ was born. A virtual cinema is a website where viewers can rent a film for a flat fee, usually similar to the price of a ticket, with a portion of the cost going towards the theatre. This meant cinephiles could rent new films without having to put money in Apple or Amazon’s pockets.  

Carbon Arc began to show films virtually in April 2020, using Eventive, a virtual cinema platform for independent theatres. The cinema will continue to host some films virtually, if possible, Lewis said.  

“I really like being able to offer the movie to people who can’t come into town,” they said. But with the option of in-person screenings back in play, film distributors are reluctant to re-enter a virtual cinema.  

Additionally, on the theatre side, screening films virtually is “really tricky. It’s difficult to get people to watch. It’s really expensive to do,” Lewis said. Showing films virtually was more of a tool to maintain viewership, they said.  

Plus, “I think it’s really important for people’s well-being to be around other people and experience something,” Lewis said.  

Lewis noticed that dramas fared poorly virtually. “There’s a lot of discussions that come out of drama. You talk about it afterwards,” he said. Carbon Arc’s programming attracts the type of audience member who appreciates the post-film discussion; the majority of the audience members at the Oct. 15 screening were familiar faces, Lewis said.  

Returning on a light note 

Prior to being presented for Haligonians courtesy of Carbon Arc, Bergman Island premiered at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival. It won’t be screened at Cineplex.  

The film, which contains “a bazillion film references,” according to Lewis, tells the story of a writer/director couple played by Vicky Krieps (the Luxembourg-born actress who made her talents known to English-speaking audiences in Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2015 film Phantom Thread) and Tim Roth (most recognizable for his appearance in four Quentin Tarantino films) as they visit Fårö, a Swedish island where Ingmar Bergman (perhaps the greatest filmmaker to ever live, especially if you ask Roth’s Tony) lived.  

The film follows the couple as they explore the island, Bergman’s legacy and attempt to finish writing their next films, together and independently.  

Lewis said Carbon Arc’s programming team chose the film because they, “wanted to show something that wasn’t super heavy.”  

Bergman Island achieved their goal. The film offers a light yet emotionally complex examination of what it means to be both a filmmaker and a human, reminding us that Ingmar himself never found the balance, yet the film still inspires audiences to re-watch his films when they get home.  

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