Bandersnatch and the reinvention of Interactive Cinema

When Black Mirror: Bandersnatch came out on Netflix, most Black Mirror fans got really hyped for the innovation it featured. Bandersnatch is a strange mixture of cinema and games, falling under the category of Interactive Films. But wait… How can something fall under a category which just got invented? Well, the answer is rather simple. It is not the first one. Oh boy, not by a long mile.

  • In 1967 Czech director Radúz Činčera created the world’s first interactive film for the audience to choose between two choices in 9 different points of the movie.
  • Later, in 1977 American director James Goldstone created the film Rollercoaster which was an attempt to mix a text-adventure game with the correct, triggered portions of the movie.
  • 1987. Digital Pictures creates Night Trap for VHS featuring full-motion video for console Control-Vision. (it was only later released on Sega CD).
  • And last but not least, in 1998 Access Software released Tex Murphy: Overseer on DVD, closing the period of interactive cinema.

And then…Silence…

  • In 2018 Netflix released Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, and people talk about it and praise it like if it would be a new invention.

But the truth is that the biggest problem lies elsewhere. It is the fact that nothing really changed.

We get a perfectly average story spiced with a little Black Mirror feel. Sometimes we get to choose between two options on a countdown. The program just cycles through some pre-defined scenes, while we are thinking and then loads the next one. This is literally what interactive films and text-adventure games are doing for an awfully long time now. A lot of them better too…

I’m not saying that this wasn’t a good idea. I was really glad to see that Netflix tried out something experimental like this. But next time they should really invent instead of reinventing. A less linear story would help too, where our choices really matter. Because in Bandersnatch they sure as hell don’t.





"You're television incarnate, Diana: Indifferent to suffering; insensitive to joy."

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