Directed by: #JérômeBlanquet
Although I’ve often seen it heralded as the future of filmmaking, virtual reality cinema isn’t something I’ve ever given much credence to, despite a begrudging curiosity. So it was really exciting for me to have the opportunity to delve into Alteration, the 2017 20-minute short film by Yann Apperry and Jérôme Blanquet—and my first cinematic VR experience!
Alexandro (Bill Skarsgård) has volunteered for an experiment run by a Dr March (Amira Casar) – controversial research into the possibility of dream recording – to get money for his pregnant girlfriend, Nadia (Lizzie Brocheré). But what should have been a straightforward affair soon becomes a terrifying prognostication of an artificial intelligence’s evolutionary capabilities. As rogue AI, Elsa (Pom Klementieff), begins a contemplation on humanity through the data mining of Alexandro’s memories, resulting in its corruption.
From the first scene she appears in, Klementieff is a tour de force; an unnerving presence with an unassuming bearing yet sinister aura. She enthralled me; she terrified me, quite frankly—she blew me away. While no-one else quite had the same on-screen presence, their performances are incredibly solid: Skarsgård puts in a good showing as our lead and Brocheré as his caring partner feels warm and comforting. Casar (as Dr March) however, remains a mystery, due, in part, to her enigmatic performance and the film’s superb character writing.
We input all kinds of private data into our computers and phones through the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram without giving it so much as a second thought. It’s become the norm. Alteration is a cautionary tale of this; of our over-confidence in sharing personal information with ever-increasingly intelligent AI. But perhaps more than that, it’s a contemplation on humanity itself. The whole thing has an Ex Machina quality to it which works incredibly well here.
Being my first VR movie, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I have to say, I was quite pleasantly surprised. The film looks really lovely and, in general, I felt the VR worked well; adding a level of immersion we might not otherwise have got. However, the VR element can also cause the viewer to miss critical visual happenings, as we look everywhere except where we’re supposed to. Although, I’m happy to admit this may have just been me.
All in all, I enjoyed my time trapped in the world of Alteration. There’s a – very haunting – supposed vision of our future here, wrapped up in the supposed future of filmmaking. And while I’m still not convinced that VR is the future (almost everything I enjoyed here was more traditional things), there’s something very pleasing about that.