You can watch the movie on Netflix
Bandersnatch, a standalone movie of Netflix’s Black Mirror series, introduces the concept of choose your adventure for adults. This interactive storytelling isn’t a new format, though. In 1998, John Hurt released his interactive erotic thriller Tender Loving Care, and more recently Netflix introduced it in an episode of the Puss In Boots series.
This time, Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones, the creators of the morbid anthology, open up countless possibilities of telling the same story. Two friends may watch the series but their experiences are going to be completely different. Some people may finish it in 40 minutes, while others may take up to two hours.
Before watching Bandersnatch, you should make sure that your device (television, mobile phone, tablet or laptop) is compatible with the interactive features of the series. You will have to check for a red logo on the movie option.
The movie’s premise is simple. We are taken back to the gaming world of the 1980s. The 21-year-old protagonist Stefan Butler (Fionn Whitehead) is designing a game, Bandersnatch, which has been inspired by a book of the same title written by fictional author Jerome F Davies. The game, like the film, offers people the chance to make a choice between two options in 10 seconds and ‘dictate’ their own path.
The concept is undoubtedly ingenious but the excitement fizzles out after the first few choices. The thought of ‘what could’ve happened had I chosen differently’ overpowers everything else, and leads to a sort of a paranoia. You may even find it difficult to concentrate on the current storyline.
The choices become difficult as the movie progresses and the viewers are forced to ‘choose’ things they wouldn’t want to. It gets a little gory, but that is nothing we don’t expect from the creators.
What is remarkable, though, is how this movie viewing and interacting format can start a larger discussion on free will and predestination. Do we make our own choices or have they already been made for us? In a quirky reference to the 1980s arcade game Pac-Man, one of the characters says that Pac-Man thinks he has free will, but he is really stuck in a maze. He theorises that the game’s acronym stands for ‘programme and control’ man.
There are times when the outcome is the same regardless of what you choose. Colin Rithman, a game developer in the series, tells Stefan: ‘It’s your choice. In as much as choice you get.’ The viewers are sometimes given the option of choosing another option. In doing so, a recap of all the developments is presented again and this gets a little taxing after some time.
The narrative involves the viewers in different ways too. We are not just making choices, but the creators make us see the consequences of it too. Stefan complains he is not able to think for himself. He comes to terms with his reality eventually, and in one scene asks: ‘What should I do now?’
The execution and concept are brilliant and the hard work is evident. What Bandersnatch lacks, however, is the poignancy and intensity of the art of storytelling. It’s hard to understand and relate to the characters because of how little we know about them. The movie focuses more on choice (or the illusion of choice) than character development. Nonetheless, it is an experience which you shouldn’t miss out on.
You can watch the movie on Netflix.