Disclaimer: Spoilers ahead
It’s actually never ending. And it scared me. I’ll get to that in a few paragraphs.
For those living under a rock, Black Mirror’s newest contribution to the world of entertainment comprises a show where the watcher i.e. you can make choices to determine what happens next and where the story goes and how it ends. There are supposedly five endings; I have been able to come to two of them. In the first, Stefan dies as a child with his mom and the entire bandersnatch never happens. It seemed apt to me and I felt satisfied with that ending. But then, I realised I could switch things up and make other choices. I did, only to discover that there are indeed other possibilities and this time, I discovered the movie set of Netflix. It was also the moment where my sister dissed it, gave up and went to bed. I think she was scared too and as a general rule has an aversion to technology, so Bandersnatch was not going to help snatch that dislike away.
Having said that, the concept is brilliant! When you watch it the first time, you get a scene where you see a little video game being showcased on an 80s TV set and the information band saying this is an interactive movie. That piece, never repeats itself once you’ve started the movie! You can play from the beginning, but that screen does not appear. It’s also well placed in the suggestions band. Since it’s the one that keeps attracting you by showcasing a glitch, instead of being a static poster.The interactive movie, awesome! This is totally breaking walls, and I don’t know which number! Netflix has broken the 4th wall a few times in the movie. Like when you make the choice for Stefan to join Tuckersoft and Colin Ritman becomes Will Poulter and tells you it’s the wrong choice. Or the moment when Stefan goes crazy about “WHO ARE YOU” and your choice is to say Netflix! And on that choice path, when you decide to jump out of the window of Dr. Haynes’ office, and you get revealed the Netflix set. Did you see the early reveal of the upturned Tuning Fork symbol on the posters when Stefan is on the bus?
Personally, I was more interested in seeing if the choice of music on the Walkman and in the store or the choice of cereal had any significant effect on the story. Still haven’t figured, but I am sure they do. Especially the choice of cereal - don’t tell me Frosties doesn’t have the power to change lives.
The other interesting piece is Pax the demon and PACS and that spin off on the whole PAC-Man game.
“There’s messages in every game. Like Pac-Man. Do you know what ‘Pac’ stands for? P-A-C. Program and control. He’s program-and-control man. The whole thing’s a metaphor. He thinks he’s got free will, but really he’s trapped in a maze, in a system. All he can do is consume. He’s pursued by demons that are probably just in his own head, and even if he does manage to escape by slipping out one side of the maze, what happens? He pops right back in the other side. People think it’s a happy game. It’s not a happy game. It’s a fucking nightmare world. And the worst thing is it’s real, and we live in it.”
This is also the point where my fear crept in. The entire movie is a huge fucking satire on the illusion of control. As a viewer, you are made to believe right in the beginning that you will interact with the movie and therefore, your choices will affect how the movie unfolds. However, whenever you chose to do stuff like destroy the computer or commit suicide, it quickly pops you into a screen where you get to redo the choice. After all, they do want you to keep exploring the story line. After all, they want you to gun for a 5 star rating for the video game Bandersnatch that Stefan makes. They keep it funny by breaking the walls and shit but at its core there is that dark truth that we live in a world where our life is a personification of the Rider Waite 7 of Cups – Everything is an illusion and you have the choice to pick any of them. And you soon realise, some choices are of no consequence.
Like the choice of popping pills by Colin - pointless, he slips them to you in case you say no. So no matter the choice, the outcome is pretty much pre-decided. Pretty much the plot of Bandersnatch. You are aware that it is a movie, that the movie has a set outcome, that the outcome will be through one of many possible paths, and yet, you engage with it thinking “can I still influence this and come to an ending that the makers may not have thought of at all!?! Can I be that unique path breaker?!?”, all the while remaining aware of the fact that you cannot.
Bandersnatch is like that alarm you put on snooze. You know you have to wake up but the illusion of a snooze is too tempting. So, you choose to sleep ten minutes more, all the while thinking about those 10 minutes getting over. So I am not really sleeping. I am just delaying the inevitable. And in the real world, we pretty much do that. Try and snooze the inevitable. Live in a world of illusions. And as such, hardly have any control over anything. Why else would you be here, if not to discover new illusions and control if you like them?
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