Netflix's ‘Bandersnatch’ Feels Gimmicky Rather Than Cinematic

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A lot has been said about Netflix's "Black Mirror: Bandersnatch," a "choose-your-adventure" formatted movie that seems to destroy the intentions and artistic value of cinema. "Bandersnatch" tries to work on two levels. On one level, it tries to envelop you into the psyche of a disturbed teenager's mind. This is done by having the narrative appear in a jumbled timeline, completely disorienting you. This disorientation is caused by the choices you have and the frequently replay, creating a feeling of inevitability, as if what happens was always going to happen. In doing so, it makes you understand how someone can feel events are out of the control of the main character, Stefan. 

Stefan is a gamer/creator living in the '80s who is working on a version of the game Bandersnatch he chose to create based merely on the illusion of choice -- how meta. Technically speaking, Bandersnatch is exactly the choose-your-adventure videogame that Stefan is developing in the plot. More playfully though, Stefan discusses the possibility that he is being controlled with his therapist, where one option for the viewer is to choose to have this unknown entity be a streaming service provider from the future named Netflix, which is the film's most playfully entertaining moment/choice. All of this puts us at the center of the pursued self-awareness director David Slade is trying to achieve; that we are indeed controlling this poor, distraught Stefan's fate. 

The point of the "Bandersnatch" gimmick is to let us control Stefan, let us be the inner demons that lead to his demise or his rescue, whichever avenue you decide to choose, really, until it actually chooses the true outcome for you. However, cinema has always been a driving machine for empathy, and despite Bandersnatch's intention to drive up the empathy for Stefan, we just don't really feel it, nor do we feel the paranoia that has invaded this poor and disoriented teenager's life. This results in making the film feel more like a video game rather than give us any kind of cinematic absorption. 

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Another problem is that despite this being touted as an interactive film, it doesn't really feel interactive at all. Yes, it gives you the freedom to choose the way the plot can go, but the film always makes you go back to the same options over and over again until you chose the right one. So, in the end, "Bandersnatch" becomes quite the opposite of what it intends to be; It doesn't give you much of a choice because if I didn't chose what I was "supposed" to choose then they just loop me around until I arrive to where the director actually wanted me to go.  Within the first few minutes, the content hints that you've chosen the "wrong path" and that you have no other option but to "go back." So, essentially, despite being promoted as a groundbreaker that lets audience interaction thrive in the dramatic proceedings, you end up not having much of a choice at all. Most un-cinematic of all, it keeps pulling you out of any kind of atmosphere trying to be created by the story, especially after having to re-watch the same 7 scenarios over and over again. The result is messy and somewhat confusing to then pick back up on again. 

This is all very disappointing given the fact that if a cleaner execution of the content had been delivered to us then maybe, just maybe, this gimmick could have worked. I watched most of the alternate choices for each opportunity given, and I have an idea of what the filmmakers were trying to say, but it all felt rather dull and gimmicky, akin to just scrolling on your phone looking for another news headline to fit your fancy.