2019 group presentation on P.O.V

A Group Presentation by

Kate Anderson-Song, Huizhu Lulu Pan, Ziwei Myrtle Zeng

ON MEANINGS OF INTERACTIVITY IN P.O.V

Huizhu Pan

Point of View is a feature-length, interactive movie composed of 12 chapters. It tells the story of a beautiful, mysterious artist Jane’s complicated relationships with people around her, including male and female, friends and strangers. The writer-director, David Wheeler, created the interactive effect by allowing the audience to view the story from different perspectives using a remote.

pic from mobygame.com

However, Bucy points out that

“for interactivity to succeed as a concept, it must have some meaningful social and psychological relevance.” (Bucy, 2004)

Thus, except for its technical function of “making your choice,” I’d like to analyze the conceptual meaning of interactivity in the story.

The feeling of interactivity can also be interpreted as a sense of participatory, which corresponds to viewers’ moods when watching the movie.

“Controlling the reader’s access to the events of the story, mood corresponds in many ways to […] point of view, the narration’s perspective of the story told.” (Gunning, 1999)

In P.O.V, the storytelling shifts among different point of views, and thus bring different meanings of interactivity.

Firstly, in the Movie part, we access Jane’s life with an objective point of view. The suspenseful, intricate storylines hook the viewers and address us to the story space. Mary’s death is one of the most significant events in the story, and it brings up the essential question of the movie – Who do you think is dangerous? By navigating the story in “god’s role,” we involve ourselves in seeking for the truth. And that creates the interactivity between viewers and the movie psychologically.

Secondly, interacting with the characters creates an effect of self-reflection. The Encounter part of P.O.V allows us to view specific events from the characters’ perspectives. As instructed, we play the role of the protagonist’s best friend. By listening to the characters’ inner voice directly, we shape our opinions of their moral value, which contributes to the construction of the further story.  As Groys states that

“When the viewer is involved in artistic practice, every piece of critique [s]he utters is self-criticism. […] it frees [the artist] from the power that the cold eye of the uninvolved viewer exerts over the resulting artwork.” (Groys, 2008)

The idea also applies to P.O.V. For instance, when Jane tells us that she cannot help peeping at Frank, we might think she needs a therapist. However, when we are asked the same question that if it is right to watch your neighbor through the window, ironically, we might realize that voyeurism is not that abnormal. And that the on-going story might relate tightly to our own choices. In the interactive process, we start to rethink contemporary social issues such as humanity, gender roles, and sex. That also echoes the theme of this movie.

Thirdly, the idea of building the story based on readers’ point of view questions and reformulates our recognition of the truth and reality. The interactivity in P.O.V reflects David Wheeler’s opinion that there is no truth but only the reader’s point of view that differs from person to person. Soka depicts this kind of artwork as

“[…] no longer a manifestation of the artist, but instead, it is a projection of the observer’s imagination.” (Dinkla)

 

Each protagonist in P.O.V has various possible personalities depending on our answers to the relevant questions, which is formed by our own experience in reality. Is Jane a victim with a traumatic past or a dangerous killer with a split personality? Is Edward a responsible cop or a devil? Are Jane and Mary best friends or more than that? The possibilities address its audience to seek for an answer at the beginning.

However, too many obscurities in the interactivity could also decrease satisfaction at the end. Erik P.Bucy argues that

“when it comes to interactivity, more is not necessary better.”(Bucy E. P., 2004)

In P.O.V, viewers have to deal with dozens of questions varying from opinions towards the characters to personal experience; although it echoes the artist’s instructional purpose, it is patience consuming. Besides, the way we manipulate the story is not explicit. As to say, the questions given are abstract instead of goal-oriented, like that of Kinoautomats – To do or not to do.

As an interactive movie, P.O.V successfully makes its interactive elements fit the concept and theme of the whole story. It reflects the artist’s will to inspire viewers to self-reflect and to face radical topics like human desires, gender roles, and sex. But it remains a question of how to interact with the audience effectively rather than keeping it as an artist’s self-expressive work.

Works Cited

Bucy, E. P. (2004). Interactivity in Society: Locating an Elusive Concept. 378.

Dinkla, S. (n.d.). The Art of Narrative – Towards the Floating Work of Art.

Groys, B. (2008). A genealogy of participatory art. The art of participation, pp. 18-31.

Gunning, T. (1999). Narrative Discourse And The Narrator System. Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings, p. 463.

a clip from P.O.V

Gamification of Cinema: using POV as an example

By Myrtle Ziwei Zeng

How do you define the word “Interactivity” in terms of media?

Reaction? Sense of control? Communication? Or, all together, game!
Although “game-like” film does not necessarily equals to interactive film, for example, Run Lola Run. The story itself is like a video game: the character dies and the story starts over. But it is not an interactive film. But in terms of form, not the content, it is more likely the case that, the more the film increase in interactivity, the more it likes a game. Recent years have witnessed a prominent tendency of “gamification” in films.

Gamification: a tentative definition highlights the “use of game design elements in non-game contexts” (Deterding, Dixon, Khaled, & Nacke, 2011, para. 1). targeting accelerated learning, enhanced engagement, and motivation through interaction with game-like features outside the realm of games (Huotari & Hamari, 2011; Walz &Deterding, 2014).

Interactive Interface of P.O.V.

 

The “Explore” Column of P.O.V.

What are the characteristics of game?

The key point of game is, most importantly, interactivity. It allows users freedom to choose which way to go instead of passively sit there and watch what is shown on the screen. Related to that is the ability to explore. Exploration can be aimless or with strong objectives, and to gain a full sense of game, a film should contain both of them, better to have stronger objectives, which I will come back to later.

How does POV increase its gamification compared with the first interactive film Kinoautomat?

Compared with Kinoautomat, POV has more questions and choices, which can decide the character’s personality and moral values, for example, whether Jane is homosexual or heterosexsual or bisexual, or whether it’s OK to snooping one’s life. And the options are more subtle and audience-oriented: aside of asking how do you feel about the characters and the story plots, it also propose questions on the audience’s own personality and values, indicating that the story will be based on our value systems. It gives us a sense of we are crafting these characters as well as the story, to create a story that conform to your anticipation, just as what Manovich said “allow the viewers to co-author a work”. Your choices do matter in how the story evolves and how it ends.

Questions Of P.O.V.

There are two specific columns, “Explore” and “Encounter” right after each chapter’s watching, which I subsume them into “Exploration”. “Exploration” broadens the scope of cinema viewing, bringing in the game element. And we can get a sense of detective which subsequently enhance suspense. Thinking about what all these detail means in regard of characters’ personalities and the cinema narratives, which will help understanding the following plots and affect the subsequent answer choosing, the viewers are actively engaged in storytelling.
Speaking of the exploration in game, I want to bring up a game launched last year “Detroit: Become Human”, which boasts in game “cinematification”. While watching, I would like to have you guys pay attention on the exploration and the objectives of the player.

Compared with POV, how does Detroit demonstrate a stronger sense of interactivity?
The whole playing course of Detroit is also like watching a film. Since in the era of media convergence, the two tendency of gamification in cinema and cinematification in game seems to be converge. Interactive cinema seems to be more “gameful” , so learning from game is quite useful especially in games of cinematification. Coming back to the Exploration part, POV only allows the viewers to explore a couple of items, and all of them are displayed on the screen, which making me feel like they are asking or forcing the viewers to click on. I clicked on them all because I feel like compulsive. And it doesn’t allow viewers to explore freely around the setting. Detroit makes the exploration worth its name: users can hang around in the locale to see the setting in 360 degrees, you are asked to find someone or some trace but you don’t know where exactly it is, that makes the exploration more exciting. And you might miss some important trace, which will lower your success chance in a certain task. During exploration, you might also finds some interesting details which is irrelevant to the story plots, but that contributes a lot of fun in playing.

Compared with Detroit, what POV lacks and makes the interactivity insufficient is that the viewers do not have a clear objectives or an instruction of action. When I was answering the questions of POV, I feel like it is questioning my own personal value or instincts. I don’t see enough evidence of Jane’s deal, or is Frank a good guy, and I don’t know will the story goes into the way I want based on my answers, because deciding characters’ personality and moral values are too ambiguous and indirect. It’s not as instructional like Kinoautomat, which asking us to choose to follow the man’s wife or stay with his lover. A clearer objective gives the user the sense that his choice does matter, which can stimulate viewers active participation, therefore increase interactivity.

Gamification of Cinema: where does it lead to?
If an interactive film like POV really improve its interactivity in the way I mentioned, will it still be called a film? Or it will become a game like Detroit? Actually, the question should be: what’s the boundary between cinematic games and interactive cinema? Or is there any boundary in the future?

Response: P.O.V – Genre & Interactivity: The Traditional Contributing to the Interactive

By: Kate Anderson-Song

I was most interested in P.O.V. because of its strong narrative aspect – and how that played into the interactivity.  Many interactive projects seem to put the emphasis on interactivity/form first, and narrative takes a back seat. Or, themes permeate a project, but the narrative throughline is unclear.  P.O.V. in many ways, is a very traditional narrative film. However, it’s use of interactive elements serve to complicate its narrative. I became fascinated with this tension between traditional narrative and interactivity, specifically looking at how POV’s use of genre lent itself to its interactive form and complicated themes that we have encountered in other works this semester.  

Alongside this tension of traditional cinema and interactivity, there was also a tension between past and present.  Narratively, there were elements of flashback and memory, along with Jane’s personal history being the crux of the story.  In terms of form, it was all shot digitally – a conscious decision by Wheeler and Landeros, as they wanted to try something apart from their last project which they shot completely in 35 mm.  

Within the film, the stark use of shadows, black and white sections, preoccupation with voyeurism/exhibitionism, and the mystery centered around the kind of femme-fatale character of Jne (and the men around her) harkened back to film noir.  The mysteries and murder within the narrative also brought in elements of the murder mystery genre and puzzle films. These genres lend themselves to interactivity, since the narrative mysteries require the viewer to try to figure out what happened (to look for clues).  

However, within P.O.V., as you are investigating or trying to solve these mysteries, you are also giving your opinions/thoughts to the film (through the interactive questionnaires at the end of each chapter), thus you’re influencing it.  This means, unlike the traditional cinematic experience where (even if the final narrative arc is subjective or unclear) there is a singular “truth” show. Other realities may be implied or the one truth could be obscured, but you will see a definite ending.  P.O.V. functions within a feedback loop, with the interactivity meaning that there is no singular truth to be solved for any of the characters within the narrative – only the truth of your P.O.V. This is driven home by the fact that the final screen of the film gives you a code that allows you to watch your version of the movie from “start to finish, as per your personal progress.”  It validates your P.O.V. as the controlling or authoring one.  

This also reveals that the characters within P.O.V. occupy a unique space of being malleable personalities.  Through watching the filma second time, and viewing the “Making of POV” documentary featurette, it became clear that the characters had a myriad of different actions they could take which not only changed the path of the story, but shifted the core personalities of the characters.  There is no truth for these characters – you, the viewer, have the power to manipulate them into the roles of villain or hero, lover or friend. As Huizhi Lulu Pan said in our presentation, there is no “truth,” only your POV. However, for these characters, your POV writes their truth – you step into the role of author or god.  Although, the format of POV works to hide or obscure this role from you, forcing you to indirectly influence with questions of opinion and morality, rather than of narrative action or direct consequence. And, by asking indirect subjective questions around not only the narrative, but ideas of power, sexuality, and morality, the film subtly forces you to contemplate your own position as the viewer/author within this interactive format and asks you to consider if the power you wield is moral.  

So thematically, the form and narrative echo each other, overall strengthening their preoccupations with power & morality.  In its use of genres like film noir, the murder mystery, and the puzzle film, along with its interactive format forcing consideration of not only character’s position within the narrative, but your position as the viewer/author outside and within the film, POV unites the very traditional narrative elements of classic cinema with its use of modern technology and interactivity to further its thematic arguments and create cohesive exploration of power and morality.

 

Our Interactive Presentation: