The Dying of the Light is a prime example of the magic of documentary filmmaking. A talented filmmaker takes a topic one might have never considered as worthy of documentary coverage, and transforms the topic into a thoroughly engaging film.
One-man-band filmmaker Peter Flynn—he wrote, produced, directed, shot, edited, and color corrected the film—interviews more than two dozen veteran and contemporary projectionists who speak with fondness for their work, and nostalgia about the gradual transition from film projection to digital projection of movies. The projectionists tell of the worlds within which they worked, the challenges and demands they faced projecting their cans of film, and the loss they’ve experienced.
Flynn escorts viewers through haunting tours of projection booths, their equipment, and the difficult work of changing reels every twenty minutes. We also learn about the heyday of film projection—the thirties and forties—when ‘movie palaces’ reigned supreme. Large buildings, majestically designed inside and out didn’t just show a movie. Instead, they featured elaborate shows—combinations of live performances, orchestras, pipe organs, short films, cartoons, newsreels and, of course, the movie.
Flynn concludes the story in digital projection booths featuring films in external hard drives operated by keyboards. There are a few giant booths left—ones that string long lengths of 70mm film for large screens. Digital is not yet up to that level of image quality.
We will, of course, be nostalgic for our current times once we have chips implanted in our brains. The tiny bio-cyber devices will receive 3-D films right from our router with 7-channel sound, scene-appropriate aromas, and proprioceptive experience.