In Conversation: Celia Mae Jones and Laurens Verdonkschot 2010

Interview 8- Wednesday, July 14th, 2010
Interviewees- Celia Mae Jones and Laurens Verdonkschot
Interviewer- Lucy Westcott

Celia and Laurens Audio

Celia Mae Jones and Laurens Verdonkschot are both students at the University of Sussex, about to enter their final year.  I decided to interview them, as they are both fans of film, but more specifically, fans of the film ‘The Room’.  The Duke of York’s have shown late-night screenings of ‘The Room’- because it should really only ever be seen late at night- several times.

Celia and Laurens on the frequency of their visits to the Duke of York’s.

Celia: “The last time I went was to see ‘The Room’ and despite living two doors down I never go that much, due to the fact that I’m a penniless student.  I only really go on special occasions, like ‘The Room’, or if someone comes down and pays for me.”

Laurens: “I guess the last time I went to the Duke of York’s was to see ‘The Room’ but I do go pretty often.  I would say I frequent it.”

The 2005 film ‘The Room’, directed, written, produced and starring Austrian former Korean leather jacket importer Tommy Wiseau became a bizarre cult hit in America.  Compared to ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ for its ritual of audience participation, the film introduces characters without names, creates dramatic plot points that are mentioned once and never again and dabbles in very unsubtle, 1950’s-style sexism.  In some American cities the film is screened weekly.  Celia and Laurens are both avid fans of the film.

C: “We’d seen ‘The Room’ multiple times before we saw it at the Duke’s, probably 5 or 6 times.”

L: “The first time we actually saw it we saw it at the same time but in different places.”

C: “We’re convinced that there’s this, I don’t know, unspoken, transcendental, psychic relationship that people have with ‘The Room’.  My friend showed it to me as a film I absolutely had to see and I watched it one Saturday afternoon and called Laurens the next day and the first thing he said was ‘Oh my God, I saw this film yesterday afternoon, it’s amazing!’ and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.”

L: “So around about the same time, we saw the same movie.”

C: “We’re convinced there’s something there, something special. Neither of us had seen it at the cinema before.”

Audience participation is crucial to the experience of watching ‘The Room’.  Whether it’s throwing things at the screen, shouting at the absurdity of certain camera shots or lines of dialogue, or wearing tuxedoes, by the end of a screening you’ll probably know what to do.  Celia and Laurens talk about some of the rules, where they come from and how you learn them.

C: “One of the memories I have was that I was going to book a ticket because I was wondering if it was going to sell out, obviously there is a dedicate fan base but I’ve never been able to gauge how big it is in Brighton.  I went to talk to the people who run the Duke of York’s and they slightly worried about the audience participation from screening ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’.  I didn’t want to tell them how many things were probably going to be thrown at the screen!”

L: “In terms of learning what to do at the screenings, I guess the Internet is the thing that sets that in motion.  People watch ‘The Room’ and they talk about it on the Internet.  It’s been out in the U.S. for ages, but it’s had comparatively less screenings in the U.K.”

C: “I know it’s screened monthly somewhere in London and I think in New York it’s screened weekly.  It’s quite infamous, and I remember watching some You Tube videos about it before, and in fact some of my friends that hadn’t seen the film were watching videos of screenings and taking note that you actually can’t hear the film because people are yelling stuff out.”

L: “I mean, ‘The Room’ info is inescapable on the Internet so you’re bound to run into stuff about audience participation, special experiences that people have had during screenings of ‘The Room’.”

C: “I think part of its popularity is to do with the Internet as well, it’s just become this big cult thing.”

L: “And Tommy Wiseau (director, producer, writer and star of ‘The Room’) doing Q&A sessions at the end of screenings, he tours America and speaks at the end of screenings.  That’s heart-warming, that’s really cool.”

L: “One of the main things people do at screenings of ‘The Room’ is the spoons.  There are these strange framed pictures of spoons all over the set so every time you see those you throw plastic spoons at the screen.”

C: “That’s because they are so inexplicable and an example of Wiseau trying to add this pointless motif, as if there’s something poetic about spoons, it’s completely ridiculous.  I also brought along a pair of underwear for the scene where this character- we never really know who he is or what his purpose is- is making out in the room and gets interrupted by Lisa and her mum and says, ‘Me underwears!’  The line is just classic.”

L: “The film also has this undercurrent of severe misogyny, it’s not very subtle.  Some people are able to make misogyny part of their films, part of an auteur persona. Lisa is portrayed as this hedonistic Succubus of a woman who preys on men and destroys their social life.  It’s a bit surreal, you can’t imagine anyone in real life like that.”

C: “But there’s no need for it in this film other than to slate the character of Lisa.  So every five minutes there would be cries of ‘Because you’re a woman!’ The misogyny does kind of ruin the film but it’s all part of the fun, shouting out the lines.  ‘You’re tearing me apart Lisa!’ It’s irresistible, the film is just too much fun.  I’ve always been intrigued by American cinema, where there does seem to be a lot more audience participation, and going to see ‘The Room’ was much more of an event than just sitting down and watching a film.”

C: “Just finally, I remember Laurens and I discussing starting a petition for ‘The Room’ to be shown at the Duke’s.  I think they had shown it before but it was before I came to university.  We never got anywhere with that and then Laurens finally told me that it was going to be shown and I was so happy.”

L: “I would like to know who I have to get in contact with the get Tommy Wiseau over to the Duke of York’s!  I want to see him and speak to that man, throw a football around with him.  Get Tommy Wiseau to Brighton!”

Link to ‘The Room’ trailer

Link to a clip from a screening of ‘The Room’

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