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Bandersnatch: What happened when we watched Netflix's Black Mirror film

The interactive film offers viewers various instances of multiple choice, which can drastically change the outcome of the ending

Roisin O'Connor
Friday 28 December 2018 11:36
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Netflix takes interactive storytelling to the next level with ‘Black Mirror: Bandersnatch’

Charlie Brooker has used his Black Mirror series to address all sorts of flaws and intrigues about humanity in the technology age, but never so blatantly as in the latest instalment: Bandersnatch.

The interactive film offers viewers various instances of multiple choice, which can drastically change the outcome of the ending. It also changes the running time: some audience members may reach a conclusion in 40 minutes. For others, it could take two hours.

We decided to liveblog one writer’s experience of the episode (obvious spoilers ahead) as they decided the actions of lead character Stefan (Fionn Whitehead), who attempts to create a video game based on a fantasy novel written by an author who went mad as he was writing it.

“Bandersnatch” was referred to in an episode of Black Mirror season 3. In “Playtest”, starring Wyatt Russell, the front cover of Edge magazine indicates that there is a review of “Bandersnatch” inside. In the scene, Sonja uses the magazine to encourage Cooper to take a mysterious job with video game company SaitoGemu.

(Spoilers ahead)

The episode opens with Stefan at home with his father, a widow, offering him a choice of breakfast cereal (the first decision the user is faced with). From there, he travels to an interview with a games company so he can pitch his idea for a game adaptation of the multiple choice novel, "Bandersnatch", which was written by a man who descended into madness as he completed it.

At the office, he is introduced to Colin Ritman (Coulter), Stefan's hero, and a man with whom you can have either a lot or barely any interaction with, depending on the choices you make. Throughout the film there are loops that guide you back to the correct narrative if you stray too far, such as when Stefan is asked whether he wants to work in the office or at home, on his own. The home option is preferred as it leads to Stefan's own slow descent into madness as he becomes obsessed with completing "Bandersnatch".

As he works, he becomes more and more irritated by interruptions from his father, and trips to his therapist. You can learn during therapy (as we did in this version of the story) that his mother died in a train crash after Stefan caused her to miss an earlier train – an event that likely triggered his current mental health issues.

It transpired that we managed to jump on one of the speedier narratives for the film, which comes to a rather gory conclusion when Stefan bludgeons his father to death, but manages to complete the game. "Bandersnatch" is released to rave reviews, as a current-day news report informs us that Stefan was later arrested and charged with his father's murder.

This writer was slightly sceptical at how Netflix is managing to get viewers to watch the episode countless times to see the various endings... meaning mega streams for them. At first the interactions are fun, but the constant interruptions to the story as you're asked to make yet another decision on Stefan's behalf can become quite wearisome, and if anything it pulls you out of the story rather than allowing you to become engrossed in it.

Netflix says of the new interactive film: “There are choices to be made, challenges to overcome, dangers to encounter and, as always in life (and Black Mirror), consequences to be had. Choosing wisely could lead to triumph while taking the wrong path could end in disaster – but who’s to say what’s ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, anyway? And fret not because once one experience comes to a close, you can – and should! – go back and make a new choice, alter the path of your story and maybe even change its outcome.”

The liveblog has now closed.

Netflix also confirmed that there are “five main endings with multiple variants of each”... although fans could uncover more depending on the choices they make, allowing for a little extra mystery.

Read our review of Bandersnatch, here.

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Hello, and welcome to one of the most bizarre liveblogs I've ever done. Today, The Independent is going to run a rolling commentary as we watch Netflix's new interactive film, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.

roisin.oconnor28 December 2018 11:05
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If you're not sure what exactly that means, allow me to explain. Bandersnatch takes cues from the multiple choice video games of the Eighties, when the film is set. You can decide on variables including the type of cereal Stefan, the lead character, has for breakfast, what song he listens to on the bus, and whether he attends a session with his therapist.

roisin.oconnor28 December 2018 11:10
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I'm going to be liveblogging my own experience of watching and interacting with the episode, here. Please don't judge me on my decisions.

roisin.oconnor28 December 2018 11:12
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OK, here we go!

roisin.oconnor28 December 2018 11:13
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Always a fan of anything that uses the song "Relax". Opening shot is our lead character, Stefan, portrayed by Fionn Whitehead (previously seen in the war epic Dunkirk)

roisin.oconnor28 December 2018 11:14
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Stefan already seems engrossed with this book, Bandersnatch, that belonged to his mother. It's a "choose your own adventure" book, where you decide what the character does.

roisin.oconnor28 December 2018 11:16
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First interactive choice of the film! I've been asked to choose a cereal for Stefan. Whoever picks Sugar Puffs over Frosties is a monster, just saying.

roisin.oconnor28 December 2018 11:19
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A bit more on the interactive element. To tackle what sounds like a frustratingly difficult task, Netflix created a new script-writing tool for branched narratives, called Branch Manager. It allowed the team to build complex narratives including loops that guide viewers back to the main story in case they stray too far, giving them the chance of a do-over.

roisin.oconnor28 December 2018 11:21
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Btw I went with the Sugar Puffs, just to be contrary.

roisin.oconnor28 December 2018 11:23
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So now he's had a nutritious breakfast, Stefan is on the way to his job interview, and has to pick some music for the journey. I went with the Now 2 tape, as I'm a big fan of those compilations. And I am rewarded, with EURYTHMICS.

roisin.oconnor28 December 2018 11:24

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