Je­sus fails to save film, even in vir­tual re­al­ity

The Myanmar Times - - The Pulse -

EVEN hav­ing Je­sus as its cen­tral char­ac­ter could not save a vir­tual re­al­ity bib­li­cal epic from the bile of slightly nau­seous crit­ics at the Venice film fes­ti­val.

Je­sus VR, The Story of Christ is billed as the first fea­ture-length flick made for a vir­tual re­al­ity plat­form, al­low­ing view­ers to be present at both birth and cru­ci­fix­ion in a 90-minute re-en­act­ment of the key events of the New Tes­ta­ment.

Head­sets strapped on, crit­ics at the world’s old­est film fes­ti­val were given a taste of the film, which was shot in 360-de­gree 4K video so view­ers can see ev­ery­thing go­ing on around them from all an­gles.

“We saw this not as much as a movie, as a way to travel back in time,” said pro­ducer Alex Barder, from vir­tual-re­al­ity pro­duc­tion firm VRWERX.

The film was shown in a new VR The­atre on Venice’s Lido, built com­plete with piv­ot­ing seats.

Shot on lo­ca­tion in Mat­era, the Ital­ian vil­lage where Mel Gib­son’s vi­o­lent drama Pas­sion of the Christ was filmed, the ex­pe­ri­ence takes you through the defin­ing mo­ment’s of Christ’s life: his birth in a sta­ble crib, his bap­tism, the Last Sup­per with his apos­tles and his death by cru­ci­fix­ion.

Ex­cept that the tech­nol­ogy is still in the teething stages.

So rather than hav­ing the sense they are walk­ing along­side Christ, the viewer’s per­spec­tive is that of be­ing a spec­ta­tor stand­ing or sit­ting near the blandly-por­trayed prophet.

“I was hop­ing you’d have a sense of Je­sus as a kind of mys­ti­cal ap­pari­tion, some­thing a bit more than a low-qual­ity ac­tor in a robe,” said one dis­ap­pointed critic.

“A star­tling, bizarre, of­ten weirdly hi­lar­i­ous ex­pe­ri­ence,” was the ver­dict of Britain’s Guardian, which spared no punches over the pro­duc­tion’s “dire” act­ing and “aw­ful” di­rec­tion.

The end prod­uct, di­rected by David Hansen, is ex­pected to be­come avail­able by Christ­mas on all ma­jor mo­bile and pre­mium VR plat­forms from Google Card­board to PlayS­ta­tion VR. But it is a film strictly for be­liev­ers. The vaguely sea-sick sen­sa­tion caused by swiv­el­ling around in chairs to see what’s hap­pen­ing be­hind would - in the view of AFP’s re­porter – have been a price worth pay­ing for run­ning with the di­nosaurs or dodg­ing maces swung by At­tila the Hun.

With the qual­ity of the im­ages no higher than that of a mag­ni­fied cell-phone screen, even Christ’s ag­o­nis­ing death on the cross failed to en­gage the preview au­di­ence.

As it was, view­ers found them­selves dis­tract­edly won­der­ing why they ap­peared to be sit­ting on the hut’s cook­ing fire as Je­sus washed feet, or turn­ing round to stare at the ex­tras in case they did some­thing.

“The tech­nol­ogy is still in the early stages,” Barder said, though he de­fended the sub­ject choice, say­ing the ma­jor­ity of peo­ple can­vassed (in the US) had said Je­sus’ life was the pe­riod they would most want to be able to visit.

“It’s the most im­por­tant story told in a way a story has never been told,” he said, be­fore re­fus­ing to re­veal who had stumped up the fund­ing for the ven­ture or how much it had cost.

Je­sus VR can be watched in chap­ters and also as a full-length ex­pe­ri­ence. The fes­ti­val’s di­rec­tor Al­berto Bar­bera had ear­lier said the pro­ject showed the new plat­form’s nar­ra­tive and tech­no­log­i­cal po­ten­tial.

Venice’s new film mar­ket, the Pro­duc­tion Bridge, is pre­sent­ing six VR projects among the 40 films, tele­vi­sion se­ries and doc­u­men­taries look­ing for fi­nanc­ing at this year’s fes­ti­val.

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