Down the rabbit hole we go.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve spent hours watching Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. It’s safe to say I’m a hardcore fan even if the experience might have left me slightly hysterical and in extreme awe of Netflix’s new ‘experiment.’
The film follows a young programmer, Stephen Butler (Fionn Whitehead), who’s working on turning his favourite ‘choose your own adventure’ style book, Bandersnatch, into a game. As Stephen attempts to meet the game’s deadline, he feels a growing anger towards his dad and becomes paranoid about external forces controlling him. Oops *insert guilty and sad face*
For the audience the journey starts with a simple decision: cornflakes or sugar puffs? Lulling most of the audience into a false sense of security, the film then asks you to make more life changing decisions, such as; which characters to kill off and what to do with the body. A real credit to Brooker is the ease in which the audience becomes invested in the character. When Stephen faces a loss, we feel guilty and responsible and when he faces a high, we feel elated.
There are said to be 10-12 different endings, some more vague than others. There is also a chance before the credits to go back and change previous decisions to see where that takes you. I spent so much time changing the past that I started to feel that I wasn’t in control either (and suddenly felt a lot more sympathetic towards Stephen). Already, there are articles about the different endings and how to reach them; for example, White Rabbit ending is by far the most ingenious, making the audience retrace their steps to change the past (almost a spoiler but not quite).
The interactive aspect of the film was engaging but coupled with the amazing acting it was in my opinion fool-proof. Fionn Whitehead’s acting was thrilling in the way he makes the audience pay attention to even the most mundane tasks and his varying moods throughout his breakdown. Will Poulter as famous gaming colleague Colin Ritman, was the cool voice of reason (even in his drug-induced sermon), whose acting gave me chills in all the right moments.
Like Black Mirrors previous episodes, Bandersnatch briefly poses Orwellian (the novel 1984) ideas about surveillance and control. Colin Ritman is the one who poses these notions suggesting we are all controlled by something in our life that we cannot escape. I personally think that although there are alternate endings, we do not know the exact outcome of the decisions we make- the film is in control of that, not us. The more changes we make the further down the rabbit hole we get, just like Stephen.
Also, I’m obsessed with the numerous Alice in Wonderland references throughout the film. The term Bandersnatch is a creation of Lewis Carroll’s whose design is similar to the horrifying image of Pax. There is also a point in which Stephen goes through the looking glass to look for his white rabbit, the results are interesting to say the least.
Bandersnatch is successful in creating a new experience for many by allowing the viewer to determine the fate of the character, in their interactive film. The plot is intense and the way it manipulates your emotions is thrilling. It brings many different ideas to the table (which I can’t wait to analyse) and leaves you wanting for more like it. Although there may be some critics, I think it’s safe to assume it deserves recognition.