This week, I virtually tried some plant medicine and hung out in the grimy streets of New York’s punk scene in the 1970s, thanks to the fiction and sci-fi programme on VR to Go, a take-away option for those wanting the full experience of the VR pavilion--extended through end-May--from the comfort of their own home.
I decided to start with Jan Kounen’s “Ayahuasca”, the longest option of the programme 2 selection, and one of the experiences I hadn’t been able to catch during last year’s pavilion at Neimënster, given its early closure due to covid. Billed as a “spiritual journey”, the film takes viewers into the heart of the Amazonian rainforest, where a Shipibo traditional healer provides a virtual taste of the medicinal plant. While the vision is incredibly creative, with fascinating transitions even down to cellular levels, spiralling fractals and tunnel movements for the better part of 20 minutes proved to be a bit much for me personally, and I decided to wait to the next day to try the other films.
Luckily the others are less vertigo-inducing. “Battlescar” (Nico Casavecchia & Martin Allais) dominates in terms of storytelling and immersion. It follows Lupe and Debbie’s journey as they try to form a punk band in New York, and it’s no surprise this won “best immersive experience” at the 2020 Lux Film Fest VR pavilion. Viewers are slung into grimy New York streets and slummy apartments alongside rough characters one minute, then propelled into the action itself, graphic-novel style, the next. The work cleverly uses hovering 3D staging and collage effects to make this artistically memorable.
Aaron Bradbury’s “Vestige”, based on a true story, focuses on the untimely death of Erik Craighead, as his wife, Lisa, recalls memories of their precious time together. This flowing, poetic exploration of love and loss, and the memories where they are contained, leaves viewers with plenty to chew on and manages to stay somewhat uplifting, despite the sad back story.
Also on this programme were “Ex Anima” (Bartabas & Pierre Zandrowicz) and “Gloomy Eyes” (Fernando Maldonado, Jorge Tereso, Santiago Amigorena). Personally, these required a bit more patience on my part, despite the dream-like quality of the former and the quirky playfulness of the latter.
While my own preference would be for VR to Go programme 1 (non-fiction), programme 2 nevertheless provides plenty of escape for those seeking it.
How to rent
VR to Go can be reserved via this link for €20, with Friday-Monday or Tuesday-Thursday rental periods, with a reimbursable rental deposit of €200.
The pavilion is open from 10am-6pm daily and free of charge. For more information, visit neimenster.lu
For Delano’s review of VR to Go programme 1 (non-fiction/documentaries), click here.