Yesterday was the first day “back 2 skool” for us Sejong Institute Korean language students. Now at the High Beginner’s 2 level, we’re starting to get more conversational, and somehow the subject of DVD Bangs came up.
DVD Bangs are visited by young couples on dates and less often by groups of friends. At the other end of the spectrum are those who want the privacy to watch naughty movies on their own, and out of their own home.
When I bumped into some students one evening and told them I had just been to a DVD Bang, they screwed up their faces and looked at me strangely and rather embarrassedly, which made me realise that the places had a less than sqeaky-clean reputation. Nonetheless, they are becoming increasingly popular in modern dating culture.
Below is an account of the DVD Bang experience that I wrote whilst still in Korea. I hope that you enjoy it:
“I like to stand in line like everyone else because that creates anticipation. Buying the popcorn and the soft drink heightens the anticipation” (Steven Spielberg on the experience of cinema-going.)
Back home, you can choose whether to indulge in the ritualistic, experiential act of cinema-going; or the more relaxed, informal version of film-watching by renting a DVD, or downloading from a computer. Here in Korea, however, there is another completely different filmic experience to add to the list, and one which all movie-watchers should be interested in: the DVD Bang experience.
The DVD Bang is a part of a dark, strange, dream-like space in between Korea’s sexually repressed overworld and seedy yet uncontroversial underworld of love motels and “glass rooms”. This bizzarre middle world is shared with norebangs (singing rooms) and PC Bangs (computer rooms), but has the worst reputation of the three; as here you have a private room in which you can watch a film of your choice, and a space in which to enjoy it in whichever way you choose- uninterrupted and unquestioned. Despite its bad reputation, the DVD Bang provides film enthusiasts with an exciting new way to experience their favourite medium.
After walking up a few flights of stairs, you will come to what looks like a DVD rental shop, with categorised rows of shiny DVDs. Under the watchful eye of the Korean attendant, you will carefully peruse these until you finally decide on the one to watch (if already familiar with the DVD Bang experience, this choice wil be far easier).
If you are one who likes to munch through a film, there is a small snack bar and fridge of non-alcholic drinks, , although the popcorn is not freshly-made and there are not separate members of staff to serve you as there would be in a cinema. Once you are ready, you will be led down a dark corridor, decorated with hotel-like floral patterned wallpaper, and shown to your private capsule-like Bang (room). The attendant ensures you are comfortable, turns off the light, and leaves.
There are comfy chairs and footrests which encourage you to sit back, put your feet up, and wait for the images to appear on the huge screen before you. It’s a similar feeling to anticipating the screen coming on in a cinema, though there are no adverts or trailers here. There are also no other audience members (apart from the friend/s you came with of course), which results in the hugest disparity between the DVD Bang and cinematic experiences. It is far more intimate and personal here, in fact there is an over-riding sense of privacy (there is not even a projectionist here, you are totally alone in your viewing), thus the semi-seediness can be detected in the air.
Once the movie begins, you are able to get just as lost in it as you would do elsewhere. The lack of other audeince members may encourage you to talk and audibly react to the film more than you would in a cinema, although I never felt the need to do so. There is no option to pause, rewind or fast-forward, so unlike watching at home, this experience provides a proper “screening” of the film.
There is an added effect reminiscent of “interactive” or “4D” movies found in amusement parks: that of the vibrating chair! Your seat will shake with varying intensity, depending on the film’s audio track. I found this to be a fun, additional enjoyment to the pleasure of film-watching, but for those who are not so keen, there is the option of turning this function down, or off.
When the film finishes, you will turn the light back on (yourself) and leave the Bang you have inhabited for the last two hours or so, only to walk down the corridor and realise that there are many others like you, doing exactly as you did. You feel as though you are part of club, shared only with other DVD Bang-ers, who love watching movies just as much as you do.
Remember that the image quality will be less than the perfect, and the screen sometimes unclean (bear in mind that in effect, you are still watching a DVD). For this, as well as the “vibrating chair” factor, I have avoided arthouse, slower-paced movies, instead favouring full-on action, fantasy and horrors to share this experience with.
Overall, I recommend this almost other-worldly yet very personal experience of film watching that is great either with a small group of friends, or even totally alone.