So … yeah. I know we’re only 10 days in, but 2021 is not off to the most auspicious start.

I’m trying to keep an open mind and a modicum of hope, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t watch Harry Styles’ new video (for “Treat People with Kindness,” and it is wonderful) approximately 927 times in a row the other day and call it self-care. I also ate cookie dough for dinner, because whatever. WHAT THE HECK EVER.

Better days are coming. They have to, or else I will insist on speaking with the manager and demanding a full refund. In the meantime, though, there’s The Isolated Cinema Pater Noster at the Göteborg Film Festival.

I read about this the other day. Organizers of Sweden’s Göteborg Film Festival 2021 are hosting a sort of immersive art experiment in which one person will win the chance to spend Jan. 30–Feb. 6 watching movies alone in a lighthouse on the island of Pater Noster in the Göteborg archipelago.

This person will be allowed no distractions – we’re talking no phones, no laptops, no Harry Styles – other than the 60 film premieres from the festival and the brooding sea.

Per the festival’s very own website: “The Isolated Cinema on the island of Pater Noster is inaccessibly located at the very edge of the archipelago in one of Sweden’s most barren, windswept locations.”

Sell it, Swedes! I’m practically in black and white just reading that!

I’m a little worried, because though they’re accepting applications until Jan. 17, they started doing interviews as soon as the application window opened Monday. So I need to act fast.

Again, per the festival website, entrants are asked to email organizers and “tell us who you are and why you want the chance to experience the Göteborg Film Festival through The Isolated Cinema Pater Noster.”

My entry:

Dear Göteborg Film Festival organizers,

I am Rachel and I want to come to your barren, windswept location! Hooray! There’s no news there, right? Just the moody sea and 60 movies? Which may or may not be subtitled in English, your website doesn’t specify, and I don’t speak Swedish? Sign me up! Please!

No, seriously, please let me go there. May I stay longer? What are Sweden’s laws regarding squatting?

I won’t claim to know much about Scandinavian fatalism as a life ethos, because what do I know about the mental health effects of midnight sun or surströmming, which I learned is a popular fermented herring product when I Googled “Swedish cuisine.” But I’m from a country whose news tends to make the front page – above the fold! – in every other newspaper in the world, so what can I say?

I’m legitimately asking you for tips: What can I say?? Because I’ve had former students in India message me on Facebook and Instagram and ask me some version of “What’s going on over there?” Just to double-check, there’s no Facebook or Instagram on Pater Noster? Or Twitter? PLEASE LET ME GO THERE!

You probably want to hear about my relationship with movies. Love ‘em! If you let me go to your lighthouse, I’ll even call them films!

And I must tell you, it would be nice to watch one somewhere other than my couch. I tell myself that I’m going to do something productive while I watch, that I’m not just going to sit there, but that embroidery project that’s always lurking within arm’s reach?

I’ve completed exactly two French knots in as many months. I promise I will bring it with me to Pater Noster and make major progress.

Because as much as I feel dutybound to engage with the world, to do something besides express myself in 240 characters or rage-read whatever links people send me, I would very much like to watch your movies and not have to text cry-laughing emojis when I’m not even smiling, let alone weeping tears of mirth.

Is that too much to ask? Would you just let me go to your island already??

I think what you’re doing is a cool experiment, exploring the changed and still-evolving ways we relate to cinema and art, and I will happily complete the video diary you require of whoever wins your contest.

I will also take pictures of penguins. Are there penguins on Pater Noster? No? OK, it’s not a deal breaker.

Just let me go there, alright? It’s been a week, and while I really do have hope for a better tomorrow in an uncomfortable vise grip, it would be nice to just brave the treacherous waves, watch some films (see? There’s more where that came from!), make a few obvious Ingmar Bergman references and eat the surströmming. Does it go well with crackers?




Rachel Sauer is at and must insist that you don’t enter The Isolated Cinema Pater Noster contest.

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