Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Reality, Virtually

Rose and "Broken Night" team

Rose’s first project as a producer premiered last week at the Tribeca Film Festival in NYC. “Broken Night” will also be shown at the Cannes Film Festival in France later this month. This has been exciting for her, as it is not just an ordinary short movie. This is a “virtual reality” experience. VR has already been used in video games, but using it in film is relatively new.

The viewer puts on a headset, through which the movie is seen. Throughout, said viewer makes choices that determine how the plot will play out. This sophisticated setup actually tracks your vision, and adapts depending on which character you are looking at at a given time. I believe everything ends up in the same place, but it’s the getting there that changes from person to person. As you can imagine, this involved filming different scenarios for each choice made, so it was quite the production.

“Broken Night” stars British actress Emily Mortimer in the leading role. The storyline revolves around an unstable woman’s undependable memories of a crime—a shooting in her home following an argument with her husband. An intruder is involved. Did she pull the trigger? Who was shot? A detective stands in for the viewer, asking questions, trying to clarify the sequence of events.

 I haven’t yet seen the film, but I sense it has the quality of a dream, where our self-conceived plots take weird twist and turns that we orchestrate subconsciously. Within our dreamscape, everything feels real—but there are certain moments when we are aware that it is NOT real. My reality check often comes when I am in peril. The thought surfaces: this is not happening. I awaken, and wonder about the strange choices my mind made in the dead of night, to steer my story one way or another.

In a way, VR imitates our “real” lives, as we make the daily choices that affect our outcomes. Like VR, we may interact with others, but are still essentially alone in our unique experiences of life. As technology continues to improve, so will “virtual reality,” until there may come a day when it is impossible to know for sure which world we are inhabiting. I find VR as fascinating as I do frightening; the applications for good are there for sure, but I hate to think of us as becoming ever-more-separated islands, with our headsets keeping us focused on ourselves and the lonely shows we are producing in our minds.

Sometimes I wonder if my whole life is part of someone else’s dream…but then I realize. It is. It is part of God’s dream for the world, and it is a dream of peace, and love, and joy. So as I make the choices that shape my reality, may I live into the big, baffling, yet beautiful picture that our God created. May I stop fearing progress, and instead be exhilarated by wonderful newness. The future is here, now. Let me embrace it all. 

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