– Ondřej Moravec’s animated autobiographical documentary about living with depression marks the first-ever VR film to be supported by the Czech Film Fund and will bow at Venice
Darkening by Ondřej Moravec
Darkening, the first-ever Czech interactive VR film supported by the Czech Film Fund, will premiere in the Venice Immersive section of the impending Venice Film Festival (31 August-10 September). The director of the work, Ondřej Moravecwho co-wrote the screenplay with Alice Krajčířovárecounts his experience of having lived with depression since puberty in the VR film. Darkening is an autobiographical animated work, and it was designed by the project’s lead art director, Bára Anna Stejskalováthe director of the award-winning animated short Love Is Just a Death Away (for which Stejskalová was nominated for a Czech Lion).
Darkening offers a considerable insight into “the dark night of the soul” and ways to cope with the illness. It uses animation, combining a stylized form of the environment that the protagonist (the director) must navigate through and abstract images of his emotions. The viewer will experience and understand what it is like to live with this illness, how to tackle it, and what mechanisms are used by people with depression in order to feel better. The protagonist soon discovers that one key to feeling better is his voice, using humming, singing anding as a calming shouting technique. Users can interact with the virtual world using voice control.
“I have heard many times from my friends in the 13 years that depression has been a regular visitor of mine: ‘I can’t imagine what you are going through.’ I found out that a VR film could be a great way to answer this question, better than just clueless silence,” notes Ondřej Moravec about the project. “I hope that our film will at least show people who have been dealing with depression that they are not alone and that there are ways out of the dark labyrinth of the mind,” adds the director about his psychological “coming out”.
“For BRAINZ Immersive, collaborating on the film was a great opportunity to capitalise on our experience from various immersive art and commercial projects. Yet the film presented us with various technological challenges, such as finding a way to bring the visual imagery to today’s generation of VR goggles with limited graphics power. The film is unique in that it makes dominant use of voice control, which is novel, in tune with the film’s story, and allows the viewer to feel the experience more strongly, as if they were part of the story itself,” adds Robin Polteraco-producer and technology partner on the project.
The VR film will be distributed at film festivals and galleries, and the director plans to make it available to users with VR headsets. Moravec is already working on a sequel titled Brighter Moment. The follow-up VR project will be designed as a therapeutic tool to help patients bring harmony to their minds.
Darkening is being produced by Czech outfit Frame Films, and co-produced by German company NowHere Media and Czech firm BRAINZ Immersive. The project is supported by the Czech Film Fund, the Unity Charitable Fund, Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg and Filmtalent Zlín. The project was presented at East Doc Interactive 2021, at the Arts Talent Market at Sheffield DocFest 2021, and at IDFA Forum 2021.
Check out our exclusive trailer below: