Picture the scene. Up high above Barcelona, in the fading light of another dazzling summer’s day, the sweet refrains of modern flamenco guide film lovers towards the grassy scarp beneath Montjuic’s castle walls. Here they lay out their picnic blankets, break out a hamper full of fresh treats from La Boqueria market, and settle down to watch one of the year’s most arresting offerings on the silver screen. Friends share a glass of Cava, couples cuddle close together and fireflies skit like miniature shooting stars through the ink-blue sky.
No doubt that was the vision of the organisers when they conceived this romantic(-sounding) al fresco cinema that screens four movies a week from late June to early August….
However as I trudged up from the funicular stop that didn’t take us anyway near as high up the mountain as I would have liked, my new shoes pinching my toes harder with every step, I got my first reminder why I don’t visit this festival on any old occasion. My second reality check was the enormous queue of hopeful cinephiles who hadn’t bought their ticket in advance and were now waiting in the (unlikely) hope there would be enough space to admit them (I’d been there before two years ago and that sure wasn’t fun!). The third whiff of coffee was when, having found that rarest commodity at Sala Montjuic, a patch of vacant grass (admittedly way at the back where we could barely see the screen) we were joined by approximately twenty loud American teenagers, who parked their blankets approx. 6 inches away from ours and proceeded to regale all and sundry with their schoolboy/girl humour. Hardly conducive to romance.
Undoubtedly the biggest obstacle to enjoying this festival of cinema however, was just how impossible it is (at least for a fidget like me) to sit on a rock-hard piece of turf for the two hours required to ‘enjoy’ the film. As the scant cushions and blankets we had managed to carry with us on the hike up Montjuic became soaked through with humidity I found myself constantly wrenching my moist ass to and fro in the vain hope of finding a position I could hold for more than 10 minutes, whilst hands and elbows were overstrained and redistributed on multiple occasions as I balanced the pros of sitting up and being able to see the screen, and lying down and being at least moderately comfortable – the latter requiring I glean what was going on from the top 25% of the projection only. After 90 mins I was begging the film to finish. Not that that signals the end of the evening’s ordeal. When several thousand people try to exit one of Barcelona’s least accessible locations all at once, the results were quite predictably chaotic and frustrating. At least for those foolish enough to enter the melee. I enjoyed a good stretch, attempted to pat dry my saturated buttocks and finished my Cava, before even thinking about making the long journey home.
Tips for Attending Sala Montjuic
Ironically enough the film I had gone to see on this occasion, Moonrise Kingdom (a typically pointless, enjoyable, unsatisfying, Wes Anderson diversion), was all boy scouts, and the moral of both that story and mine should be “always be prepared”. With that in mind here are some tips that can make or break your Sala Montjuic experience!
1) Buy your tickets in advance! If you don’t there’s a very real chance you’ll be climbing the mountain for nothing.
2) Even having bought your ticket in advance get there as early as possible. If you want to put down your blanket anywhere near the screen this is essential. Also there is a limited number of those funny little beach mattresses which you can borrow for free, plus also deckchairs for rental. The latter cost 3 euros, but I don’t think you can reserve them in advance, so getting there early essential once more.
3) Arrive by car if possible, or scooter or taxi. That way you can bring loads of comfy blankets, pillows, cushions, mats etc, as well as your picnic. Parking can be a bit of a mare, so see point 2).
4) Bring loads of comfy blankets, pillows, cushions, mats etc:)
5) Bring a sweater. It may be hotter than Satan’s sauna when you leave home but it can get chilly, esp. after two or three hours of reclining.
For more info head to the official website.