“Black Mirror: Bandersnatch” Suggests a Bright Future of Cinema

“Black Mirror: Bandersnatch,” Netflix’s first-ever interactive film, was released on December 28, 2018. Throughout the film, viewers are given the opportunity to choose between two options, which lead to a range of plots and endings.

A young, mind-bending video game programmer Stefan writes a video game, based on a book “Bandersnatch”, in which the gamers choose between two options, and he calls the game “Bandersnatch”. The player’s choices throughout the game will determine the endings. As he works on writing the game, Stefan feels like he is being controlled, and he questions the reality of his life. One branch of the narrative implies that Stefan is being inspected by someone. In some parts of the film, viewers choose to go back and make a different choice.

The first choice viewers can make is whether to have Sugar Puffs or Frosties for breakfast. As the story progresses, the type of choices become more crucial. Viewers are able to make minor decisions from crucial decisions that could change the entire plot of the rest of the story such as deciding who will jump off the building. They have limited time for deciding as well; after 10 seconds, a random decision will be made.

“It was really cool, the fact that you had to choose. I felt like controlling the plot, I felt that,” Grade 9 student Miriam Recca said.

Several different endings happen according to viewers’ decisions. Viewers have the option to spend hours exploring the different pathways of choices to reach each possible ending. Some fans of this film even created a flow chart of sets of decisions that influence the plot.

“I think just the whole idea of choices, in general, makes it feels like you’re in it. You play a bigger part because it is usually [when watching films] like you are separate from the movie, like you’re on one planet and the character is on the other side, but this is more interactive, so I felt like I was part of the actual film,” Grade 9 student Isabel Zaring said.

Raya Bidshahri suggests in her “Singularity Hub” article “Black Mirror’s ‘Bandersnatch’ Takes Viewers on a Wild Interactive Ride” that Bandersnatch is a trend-setting movie. She predicts that viewers will no longer have a passive role watching movies . Specifically, she suggests that in the future, films may adapt in real time via AI, not needing to script and film all the divergent branches of scenarios. She also assumes that not only AI but VR also may allow the viewers to enjoy more active experiences in viewing the film. Viewers could be involved directly, being the characters in the film themselves. Data from their past experiences could be optimized throughout the film, customizing the plot for each person.

Letting the viewers control the plot by making the decisions throughout the film is just the beginning of the development of cinema technology. It is the door to the future of cinema, and much more is to come with rapid and enormous progress.