Czech VR film exploring depression gets national premiere
“I have been working in this field for several years already, as I am also a festival programmer and I was selecting VR pieces for One World and other festivals.
“And then because I studied cinema – screenwriting – at the FAMU, I also wanted to come back to the creative process.
“So it was kind of a natural combination, that I turned to virtual reality.
“And then the choice of subject was also quite natural for me, because they say it’s good to start with something you really know a lot about.
“So that’s the subject I chose, and I think exploring states of mind in virtual reality is quite powerful.
“It’s a good subject, suitable for the medium, so it was my decision.”
I think it’s one of the most intimate and personal things I’ve seen in a very long time. Is it a strange feeling that so many people can know about your inner life and things about your family life?
“I always feel that I have something right in me [laughs]that I’ve shared something but there’s still a lot they don’t know.
“I was a little more scared before it made me more fragile, but I think the opposite is true: I can share it with more people, so it makes me feel better.
“Because a lot of people tell me, my story is sort of similar, or, I can really relate to your story.
“So that makes me stronger.”
I was surprised when I went through the Darkening that other people were also going through it at the same time, and that we could hear each other. What’s the idea of having more people experience it together?
“I think using the voice [which viewers are asked to do] it is also something intimate.
“A lot of people tell me that maybe it would be better to use it at home, alone.
“But then the other half, which I think is maybe a bigger half, says they wouldn’t do it if the others didn’t.
“So the goal is for them to encourage each other to use the voice in the experience – not to feel so uncomfortable, maybe.”
What kind of responses do you usually get? I guess it has been seen by several hundred people now?
“The reactions are very pleasant.
“I think here in the Czech Republic so far the most frequent reaction is that they expected it to be darker, as it is called Darkening.
“They say it’s more like a dark fairy tale.
“I say, yes, you’re right – I like fairy tales, so why not.
“But I didn’t want to create a project where you would enter very intensely into the feeling of depression. It was not my intention.
“It was more to show that there are ways and techniques to get out of it.”
How does it work economically? Compared to a normal movie, it’s relatively difficult to reach people with Darkening.
“Yes, it’s a bit more difficult in terms of funding, because you have to create the physical installation for galleries or festivals.
“Then you have to have your own helmets. We have a bunch – 23 helmets – which we will use for distribution.
“So we have to buy it. The infrastructure isn’t there, so it’s a bit problematic.
“And we find out, you know, so I’m also curious if it will somehow be refundable.”
What’s next for you? Will you make more films in a similar field?
“Yes, we are already preparing the next VR project, which concerns the war in Ukraine.
“It will be a three-part project. One will be a 360 film, which my Ukrainian colleagues have just shot.
“The second will be a mobile application.
“And the third should be mixed reality, which combines augmented reality and virtual reality. This will be done for the new helmet, by Meta.
A trailer for Ondřej Moravec’s VR Darkening project.