Sensory Cinema

By Michelle Connolly Sunday 5th Jul, 2015

Who doesn’t love a treat night at the cinema?

Especially when its in the plush surroundings of the Everyman Screen on the Green in Islington – one of the country’s oldest, but a beautifully maintained lady nonetheless. This was no ordinary cinema outing though – not satisfied with using only our eyes and ears, we were invited to take part in an experience that tickled far more…

Under the theory that explores how the full engagement of all five senses can change our perception, we set out to see how different ‘Gravity’ – the Sandra Bullock space-based epic – could be reinterpreted. Designed to awaken far more of an emotional response than merely watching and hearing a film, the idea was to stimulate those parts not often reached, in the cinema at least. Gifted with goodie bags containing blindfolds and socks, an array of flavoured delights from global e-cigarette brand Blu to vape alongside the film were provided on the way in. Having made our way through we found pots of numbered bags containing edible tasters to be consumed at set points waiting on our spacious seats, and were served tasty Pimm’s cocktails to wake up the tastebuds.

After a short but rousing introduction from Dr. Charles Spence on his research into the senses (utilising our goodie bag of course) we settled in to watch the film. While sometimes it can be frustrating to sit through an experience like the cinema with interruptions to the screen action, we found the Blu experience very low-key, subtly referencing each mini-bite delight with a dimly lit number paraded across the bottom of the screen when the lightbox alert was flashed. Understated and helpful, you could see how the flavours of the nibbles were really upping the ante of what was happening on-screen. A particular favourite and one of which I found notable was the sweet and crumbly shortbread while Bullock’s character speaks nostalgically of home – it really brought it back to you how that taste could be the embodiment of home for her.

To match the ice cold depths of space, we were directed towards the more ‘frozen’ style flavours in the Blu e-cig pack, notably Menthol and the very tasty Strawberry Mint, which personally reminded me of a certain Swedish cider brand, and (spoiler) in the scenes back on home ground the Classic Tobacco lent itself to some very earthy tones. While there was very clear direction on the nibbles to be taken at each part, it might have been more immersive if there had been more of a nudge on which flavours to vape at which points, as we were literally imbibing in the dark and hoping to add to the experience. It was however, extremely easy to use and swap cartridges, so you could change them often and try a new one to see if it changed your perception at all.

Cinema 1

In a quote directly from Dr. Spence himself “The majority of life’s most enjoyable experiences are truly multisensory, although the medium of cinema has remained largely unexplored until now; research shows that flavours, aromas and physical sensations can have a direct impact on our emotional response to what we see and I’m excited to collaborate with blu UK to explore how we can use these other senses to heighten our viewing experience of familiar films.”

Overall an interesting and very memorable experience, it was one that made us here at DC question our future film snacking – are we going to reach for the tried and tested popcorn classic, or see if we can match our movies to a more substantial emotional tastebud awakener next time? Definitely something to try at home – how about some Goodfellas, a glass of Trebbiano, Italian pasta like mama made it and proper, creamy gelato?

Sounds like a match made in sensory heaven.