The Cynicism of Netflix’s Interactive ‘Black Mirror: Bandersnatch’ – Netflix互动版《黑镜:班德斯纳奇》的玩世不恭

The high-profile return of the interactive movie was not inevitable; the last time around, such a project barely made a cultural dent. 1995’s Mr. Payback opened on 37 screens to critical disdain and barely any audience; wrapping up the year in film, Roger Ebert singled it out as not just the year’s worst movie, but the year’s worst idea for a movie. The choices (with the audience voting through joysticks attached to their cinema seats) in the 20 to 30-minute narrative weren’t of much import; it’s a low-stakes comedy in which all decisions made lead to a happy ending, so the decisions were more along the lines of, should Freddy Krueger make a cameo?


The Cynicism of Netflix’s Interactive ‘Black Mirror: Bandersnatch’ - Netflix互动版《黑镜:班德斯纳奇》的玩世不恭

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, 2018, film still. Courtesy: Netflix

Interactive films didn’t go away in the gap between then and Bandersnatch (2018), Netflix’s very special interactive episode of Charlie Brooker’s ‘Black Mirror’ television series. The genre took off in the 1980s, when LaserDisc technology enabled the visual jump from chapter to chapter previously confined to Choose Your Own Adventure books. The wave was a very ’80s phenomenon, and while a limited number of interactive movies have been produced since, the stakes have remained low: Netflix’s previous attempts include 2017’s Puss in Book: Trapped in an Epic Tale, a ‘Puss in Boots’ cartoon spin-off from the Shrek franchise. Bandersnatch was much more laborious: two years in gestation, its creator considers the 35-day shoot the equivalent of doing four episodes at once. Another one of Brooker’s morality plays about Technology and Unintended Consequences, this is a far more portentous product than the goofy Mr. Payback.

Bandersnatch tracks Stefan (Fionn Whitehead), a young video game programmer in 1984 working on…an interactive game. The episode is mercilessly self-reflexive, constantly explaining how interactive games work, how choices are made, how free will is ultimately an illusion, how every choice made affects your path; from the first song cue (Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s injunction to ‘relax, don’t do it’, har har) the episode never, ever arrives at a place where it stops explaining itself or the obvious. There are eight possible endings, some more cheerful than others, but the experience of navigating to each is a slog, and the technological seams show. Whenever you make a decision out of the two offered, the shot holds on an extended close-up of an anticipatory reaction shot or someone repeating their dialogue. When you go down a wrong path that clearly terminates the story early, you have to go back and sit through a lot of footage you’ve already seen that wasn’t terribly compelling the first time. If one of the possible trajectories were viewed as a linear film, it’d be slow going: the vibe is basically Donnie Darko with a little In the Mouth of Madness sprinkled in, with putatively ominous establishing shots and endless dialogue literalizing the teen dread of the former and the author’s-insanity-infects-the-world plot of the latter.

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, 2018, film still. Courtesy: Netflix

The Cynicism of Netflix’s Interactive ‘Black Mirror: Bandersnatch’ - Netflix互动版《黑镜:班德斯纳奇》的玩世不恭

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, 2018, film still. Courtesy: Netflix

Netflix spent much of 2018 making news of various kinds. Bandersnatch is part of USD$13 billion spent on content that year, part of a breathless torrent of new developments: bending enough on theatrical distribution to show Roma in 70mm at select locations, ponying up for a variety of projects with unlikely commercial prospects, announcing 47 stand-up specials to be dropped on one day (New Year’s 2019, it turned out). Novelty aside, Bandersnatch doesn’t stand out as one of the company’s more interesting projects: it’s a weekend novelty, good for a few hours’s worth of increasingly annoying experimentation, in which narrative repetition and wheel-spinning produce increasingly strong frustration. What distinguishes this interactive movie, besides its streaming platform, is the speed at which Reddit users predictably mapped out every single choice and path you could take, saving impatient viewers the slog of personally test-driving it themselves.


The Cynicism of Netflix’s Interactive ‘Black Mirror: Bandersnatch’ - Netflix互动版《黑镜:班德斯纳奇》的玩世不恭

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, 2018, film still. Courtesy: Netflix

Per the usual logic that capitalism is happy to assimilate and profit from any criticism or parody of its institutions, two of the Bandersnatch hotlines lead viewers to situations in which Netflix itself becomes a plot point, in a fashion that simultaneously satirizes the company’s current ubiquity while implicitly celebrating it. Bandersnatch goes on and on about choice and free will or lack thereof, and the company’s ability to release the project and inevitably receive reams of commentary suggests a very cynical real-world demonstration of the thesis. From the moment the project was conceived, it was pre-ordained that it would be one of the surest ways for culture beat-writers to earn a paycheck the week of its release. The public is a different matter.

Narratively, this is a dead-end – like the VR industry’s ongoing foundering attempts to make the public care, it’s unlikely that the desired demand will be generated, hopefully proving that not every expenditure of large amounts of capital on ‘innovations in storytelling’ inevitably incites the desired Pavlovian response.

Main image: Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, 2018, film still. Courtesy: Netflix

Vadim Rizov

Vadim Rizov (@vrizov) is the managing editor of Filmmaker Magazine.

Opinion /

Black Mirror
Video Games
Vadim Rizov

互动电影的高调回归并不是不可避免的;上一次,这样的项目几乎没有对文化造成影响。1995年的《回报先生》在37个银幕上上映,遭到了批评的蔑视,几乎没有观众;在影片的最后一年,罗杰·埃伯特将其选为不仅是今年最差的电影,也是今年最差的电影创意。20到30分钟的叙述中的选择(观众通过附在电影院座位上的操纵杆投票)并不重要;这是一部风险很低的喜剧,所有的决定都会带来一个愉快的结局,所以这些决定更符合弗雷德·克鲁格应该拍摄一部吗?bandersnatch-netflix.jpg The Cynicism of Netflix’s Interactive ‘Black Mirror: Bandersnatch’ - Netflix互动版《黑镜:班德斯纳奇》的玩世不恭黑色镜子:bandersnatch,2018年,电影《静止》。礼貌:Netflix Interactive Films在当时与Bandersnatch(2018)的差距中并未消失,这是Netflix在查理·布鲁克尔的《黑镜》电视系列中非常特别的互动插曲。这一流派始于20世纪80年代,当时雷射迪斯科技术使视觉跳跃从一章跳到另一章,而这一章以前仅限于选择你自己的冒险书。这场浪潮是一个非常80年代的现象,尽管自那以后已经制作了有限数量的互动电影,但风险仍然很低:Netflix之前的尝试包括2017年的《书中的猫:陷入史诗故事》,一部《穿靴子的猫》动画片从《史莱克》系列衍生而来。班德斯纳奇更费劲:怀孕两年,创造者认为35天的拍摄相当于一次拍摄4集。布鲁克的另一个道德观是关于技术和意想不到的后果,这是一个比愚蠢的回报先生更具预兆性的产品。Bandersnatch跟踪了Stefan(FionnWhitehead),一个年轻的电子游戏程序员,在1984年致力于……一个互动游戏。这一集无情地自我反省,不断地解释互动游戏如何运作,如何做出选择,自由意志最终是一种错觉,做出的每一个选择如何影响你的路径;从第一首歌的线索(弗兰基去好莱坞的禁令'放松,不要这样做',哈尔哈)这一集从来没有,从来没有到达一个地方,当它停止解释自己或明显。有八个可能的结局,有些比其他的更令人愉快,但是每一个结局的体验都是一个缓慢的过程,技术层面也显示了这一点。无论何时,当你从两个提供的决定中作出决定时,该镜头都会保持一个预期反应镜头或某人重复他们的对话的扩展特写镜头。当你走错了一条明显提前结束故事的道路时,你必须回去看一看你已经看过的许多第一次没有太大吸引力的影片。如果把其中一个可能的轨迹看成是一部线性电影,那就太慢了:这种感觉基本上是唐尼·达科,有点疯狂,有着不祥的背景镜头和无休止的对话,使青少年对前者的恐惧和作者的疯狂感染了后者的世界情节。黑镜:Bandersnatch,2018年,电影《静止》。礼貌:Netflix The Cynicism of Netflix’s Interactive ‘Black Mirror: Bandersnatch’ - Netflix互动版《黑镜:班德斯纳奇》的玩世不恭黑色镜子:Bandersnatch,2018,电影静止。礼貌:Netflix Netflix在2018年的大部分时间里都在制作各种新闻。Bandersnatch是当年花费130亿美元在内容上的一部分,是一股令人窒息的新发展洪流的一部分:对戏剧发行进行足够的专注,在选定的地点向罗马展示7000万美元的内容,为各种不太可能有商业前景的项目储备资金,并宣布将在一天内(2019年元旦)投放47个展台特别节目。结果证明)。撇开新奇因素不谈,Bandersnatch并没有成为公司更有趣的项目之一:它是一个周末的新奇事物,适合几个小时的实验,这些实验越来越烦人,在这个实验中,叙述的重复和旋转会产生越来越强烈的挫败感。除了流媒体平台之外,这部交互式电影的显著特点是,Reddit用户可以预见地以何种速度绘制出您可以选择的每一个选项和路径,从而使不耐烦的观众省去了亲自测试驾驶它的过程。504aec25-409e-4a4f-b0ff-17bbe122b08.jpg The Cynicism of Netflix’s Interactive ‘Black Mirror: Bandersnatch’ - Netflix互动版《黑镜:班德斯纳奇》的玩世不恭黑镜:Bandersnatch,2018,电影静止。礼貌:Netflix按照资本主义乐于吸收并从其机构的任何批评或模仿中获利的通常逻辑,Bandersnatch热线中的两条将观众引向Netflix本身成为一个情节点的场景,同时讽刺公司目前的普遍性,同时简单化。在城市里庆祝。班德斯纳奇不断地谈论着选择、自由意志或缺乏自由意志,公司发布项目的能力,不可避免地会收到大量评论,这表明这篇论文是一个非常愤世嫉俗的现实世界的证明。从构思这个项目的那一刻起,人们就预先约定,这将是一个最可靠的方式,对文化胜过作家来说,在它发布的那一周赚取薪水。公众是另一回事。叙述性地说,这是一个死胡同——就像虚拟现实产业正在进行的让公众关注的失败尝试一样,不太可能产生所需的需求,希望证明不是每一笔巨额资金在“讲故事的创新”上的支出都会不可避免地引发所需的巴甫洛夫式反应。主画面:黑镜:班德斯纳奇,2018年,电影静止。礼貌:Netflix Vadim Rizov Vadim Rizov(@vrizov)是电影人杂志的总编辑。意见/电影Netflix黑镜电子游戏Vadim Rizov意见


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