I’ve lately been spellbound by films from the veteran French film director Claire Denis. Her films portray people at the margins of society and she often deals with legacies of French colonialism in places like Cameroon or Djibouti. She debuted in 1988 with the film “Chokolat” and has directed ten full-lenght feature-films since then.
What’s remarkable about these films is not the storytelling as such. In fact, in many of her films a traditional plotline is almost non-existant. Instead, Claire Denis builds her films as a sequence of in-the-moment scenes where specific emotions and atmospheres emerge almost from the first frames. She seems to have an uncanny ability to engage us into the inner world of the protagonist. A poetry of sight and sound, if you will.
As the viewer you feel empathy and experience those moments, as if you were the protagonist yourself. Remarkably, she pulls it off in very exotic contexts that don’t resemble your own life. Watching her films allows you to experience moments in the life of a African coffee farmer or a soldier in the French foreign league. It feels more like story-living rather than story-telling.
Watching Claire Denis’ films has made me think more how VR and AR can engage us on a deeper level. VR, like the best of cinema, is about “story living” rather that storytelling. You’re inside the story. You’re within, as pioneering VR director and entrepreneur Chris Milk puts it.
Can something that lasts only few minutes (the typical length of Mixed Reality experience) give rise to the deepest emotions? Can MR become as deeply engaging as longer forms of art such as cinema or literary fiction?
Watching great films gives me much confidence in Virtual and Mixed Reality. Emotional engagement often happens suddenly. The best directors use sight and sound so well that they manage to take us down the rabbit-hole of human experience in an instant. There’s a lot to learn from these masters as we create experiences for Mixed Reality.