As of today, you can watch a new episode of the popular series Black Mirror on your smart TV. The trick is, however, that the story of the episode follows the viewer’s choices, so several different outcomes are possible.
A fifth season of Black Mirror is currently planned, but Netflix has decided to make the wait more enjoyable for fans by releasing the first feature film, “Black Mirror”: Bandersnatch,” which will be premiered on 28 December. Directed by David Slade, the film is set in the 1980s and tells the story of Stefan, a young programmer who decides to turn a fantasy novel into a video game and gradually begins to blur the lines between reality and fiction. This time, however, it encompasses more for the viewer than just passively watching. The film allows the viewer to get involved in the story and decide what actions the main character should take. Netflix has now introduced its first interactive film.
How does that work? The interactive film has to be watched via the Netflix app. It doesn’t matter if you open Netflix on your phone, computer or even your smart TV. If you decide to watch the film, then you will have your first choice in a short while. You will then be offered a decision every few minutes. You simply choose between the two options. The story branches out and it is possible to reach several different endings. No special accessories are needed to use the interactive features, so if you have a Smart TV and a Netflix subscription, for example, you’re all set for a new experience.
Ironically, it is the setting of Black Mirror in particular that Netflix chose for its first interactive film, as the series usually warns us about the pitfalls and possible catastrophic scenarios that the advancement of technology can bring. But now it is acting as an agent of change itself. As ground-breaking as this interactive film from Netflix may seem, it doesn’t bring anything revolutionary to the table. Films in which the audience could choose the direction the story would take had their origins in the 1960s, when the Czechoslovak film Kinoautomat (“Self-Service Cinema”) was presented at the 1967 World Exhibition. Netflix has already had its first lawsuit thanks to its interactive venture. The publisher of Choose Your Own Adventure is suing Netflix, which it says is illegally using the basic concept of the books in its book series. How this lawsuit will turn out, we can only guess.
Whether we’ll see more interactive Netflix-produced movies to watch on our smart TVs is the big unknown at the moment. On the one hand, making such films is expensive and may even seem inefficient, given that the viewer will see only a fraction of the scenes. In this film, for example, the viewer watches about an hour and a half of footage, but all the footage taken together amounts to nearly 6 hours. On the other hand, this episode of Black Mirror has been a great success, so we may soon be able to enjoy another interactive film from Netflix.