Update, 5/18: Read early reviews of R U There here.
A movie about Second Life and gaming is screening at this year's prestigious Cannes Film Festival, which opens today. The name of the film is R U There, a Dutch/French production partly shot in Taipei, and partly in Second Life. It's about a professional gamer who falls in love with a beautiful Taiwanese girl, who invites him to deepen their relationship in the metaverse. Check out the immensely stylish trailer, which sort of suggests Wong Kar-Wai meets CounterStrike:
RU There is screening in Cannes' Un Certain Regard selection, which is reserved for international movies that are "original and different" in a noteworthy way. Previous entries include last year's acclaimed hit Precious, Hou Hsiao Hsien's Flight of the Red Balloon, and Richard Linklater's A Scanner Darkly. (Which as it happens, was promoted in Second Life.) Competitively, R U There is up against movies like Socialisme, by Jean-Luc Godard, who's one of the world's greatest living directors. In other words, this is a very big damn deal.
RU There was directed by David Verbeek, who occasionally visits SL as the avatars "LilyRukai Camino" and "Cameraman Haiku". I tried to get in touch with him, but being in Cannes at the moment, he's somewhat tied up. Fortunately I was able to interview the film's editor, Sander Vos, who introduced Verbeek to Second Life in the first place. "David is fascinated by the contradictions of modern life versus the needs of the human soul," as Sander put it to me. "While we were editing his previous film, I was in SL on a daily basis and I showed him around." (Vos' SL avatar is "RL Karkassus".) What he saw there and what Sander told him inspired Verbeek to include Second Life in his next project:
"I might have told him about the wonders and difficulties that surround virtual romance, about how intense one can identify with one's avatar that is being in love with another avatar," Vos recalls. "I can imagine that struck a chord in David, because when we were shooting in SL, that was what he was searching for all the time: shots that made the audience identify with the avatar - and at the same time wonder about the metaphysical consequences of that. 'Do we now identify with the avatar or with the user behind the avatar?'"
Vos estimates about 15-20% of the movie takes place in SL, "But [those scenes] are important-- as the relationship between the main characters evolves further there than in real life."
Verbeek puts it this way in the production notes:
Because they are so different, Jitze and Min Min would never share their universe in real life, but in the virtual world they can. What they, despite their many differences, have in common is the need to feel free and be liberated from the constraints of life. Something they cannot accomplish in the real world, but can in Second Life. Virtual reality enriches their experience, despite being an imaginary world.
No announcements about a theatrical/broadcast/DVD release for RU There have been made as yet, but seeing as Cannes is the most important international marketplace for distributors, odds that it'll get some kind of wide release are good. (Cannes is about as crucial on the worldwide stage as the Sundance film festival is in the United States -- which is funny, because as it happens, a Second Life documentary was featured at the last Sundance.) In any case, Vos tells me, "the Dutch distributor was thinking about doing a viewing in SL for an audience."
Though where in Second Life R U There will play remains to be seen. "I saw there is a Cannes sim in SL," Sander Vos muses. "Wonder if that would be a good pace to do it."
Image credits: IDTV Film, VPRO, Les Petites Lumières. Sander Vos photo courtesy of him.