Writers William Bridges (L) and Charlie Brooker, winners of Writing for a Limited Series, Movie or Dramatic Special for 'Black Mirror' at the Emmys 2018
Charlie Brooker, for a long time, was known mainly as a pithy satirist. His predominantly pessimistic outlook and sharp sense of wit were evident on The Weekly Wipe, a show where he dissected news stories from around the world. He had a superb ability to point out things that when mentioned would seem painstakingly obvious and draw humour from places you didn’t know there was any.
When Black Mirror debuted on Channel Four, it seemed obvious that it was Brookers' warped and cynical mind behind it. Each episode depicted a different dystopian present or future that was startlingly recognisable, where a new form of technology or a new way of using it would cause a character a huge amount of harm or distress. The series sits somewhere between science fiction and satire, drawing heavy influence from The Twilight Zone.
Bandersnatch is the newest addition to the now Netflix owned Black Mirror and it certainly doesn’t disappoint. The feature length film tells the story of a young man called Stefan (played by Fionn Whitehead) an enthusiastic and troubled video game developer. Stefan is working on a game that represents his favourite book (titled Bandersnatch) – which focuses on decision making. In a somewhat unexpected twist, Brooker and the Black Mirror team have made the film meta by allowing the audience to decide the outcomes for Stefan. This concept is nothing entirely new, the “make your own adventure” style has been used before (previously by Netflix in Minecraft: Story Mode) but to my knowledge, never to this extent.
Actor Fionn Whitehead, who plays Stefan in Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, attends the 'The Children Act' New York premiere.
The choices begin as very menial and having little to no impact on the story. The first decision is what to have for breakfast, with the choices being Sugar Puffs or Cornflakes. As the story progresses, Stefan begins to lose touch with reality as he becomes obsessed with the writer of Bandersnatch, Jerome F Davies who experienced derealisation before murdering and decapitating his wife. Stefan is struggling from some severe mental health issues, namely derealisation, and spends days at a time doing nothing but focusing on the task at hand – finishing game development before his deadline.
Stefan’s thoughts become increasingly disturbing as he loses his grip on reality – forcing viewers into several dilemmas when picking choices. Each choice results in a different scene, if the scene doesn’t tie in perfectly with the story, you loop back and get a single choice, the one that you should have picked the first time around. I don’t want to reveal too much of the plot, but it twists and turns in directions you certainly wouldn’t expect. The film gives you the chance to explore every potential avenue when you reach the natural end of the story strand, meaning you can experience every single outcome.
Brooker has, once again, captivated the nation with his enthralling storytelling techniques. In a changing digital world, while we scroll through our timelines and newsfeeds when sat on the sofa, we rarely give the television our undivided attention. However, the interactive experience has meant we daren’t look at anything else. Black Mirror is back and better than ever.
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