Teen dramas in virtual worlds darken Cannes
The dark side of the virtual world descended on Cannes Sunday in teen suicide dramas playing on the potentially dangerous blur between reality and the Internet.
"Chatroom", the first of a trio of cyberspace thrillers chilling the film festival, sees a dysfunctional youngster (upcoming British star Aaron Johnson) obsessively watching Japanese suicide videos in a dark locked bedroom.
He sets up a chatroom with four other troubled teenagers, but seems only to want to mess with their heads.
Directed by Japanese master of horror Hideo Nakata, but panned by many Cannes critics, the British movie brings a note of caution to fans of the virtual world both on the Internet and in video games.
"The Internet has been increasingly amplifying negative emotions: anxieties, fear, envy, hatred and anger," said Nakata, whose movie was screened at the festival's "Un Certain Regard" section.
"It is now proven that this can result in the most extreme acts, either of killing yourself or other people," he said in production notes.
In "Black Heaven", by France's Gilles Marchand, a teenager is attracted to a beautiful but deranged young woman who lives a double life in an online game called "Black Hole", where she seduces avatars into committing real-life suicide.
Marchand said he came up with the idea of making a film mingling real life with virtual worlds after watching a teenager, oblivious to shoppers in a department store, playing a videogame in which his avatar had just committed murder.
His movie is set in sunny southern France, counterposing the light and colours of the Mediterranean coast with the dark, highly stylised world of the online game.
Dutch offering "R U There", also screening in "Un Certain Regard", is director David Verbeek's tale of a professional gamer forced to pull out of a wargame tournament in Taipei -- where the watchword is "kill!" -- for several days due to muscle strain.
Normally locked up in virtual worlds he suddenly comes face to face with the real world where he is drawn to a local woman, Min Min.
A Taiwanese doctor suggests "he lives too much in his mind and needs to live with his body" but Min Min instead convinces him to follow her example by relaxing as an avatar on Second life.
"What he surrenders in the end is his need to always control his environment," said Verbeek.
But while the pair have a common need to feel free from the constraints of life "they cannot accomplish this in real life," the director said.
"Only virtual reality enriches their experience, despite being an imaginary world."
© 2010 AFP