The Czech/German interactive animated film Darkening / Tmání by Ondřej Moravec, which will have its world premiere in the Venice Immersive 2022 competition, is a 25-minute immersive experience which addresses depression and the ways to cope with it. It is also the first Czech VR film supported by the Czech Film Fund.
The protagonist, who is the director himself, guides us through the diverse landscapes associating the story of his struggle with depression since puberty to his everyday fights with the “darkening”.
Through the animation, which combines a stylised form of Moravec’s environment and abstract images of his emotions, the viewers experience what it is like to live with this illness, how to tackle it and what mechanisms are used by people with depression to feel better. Most of the interactions are voice controlled as the main character finds out that his tool to get the depression under control is his voice.
“I was thinking about Darkening right from the moment when I found out about virtual reality seven years ago. I had this idea to create an immersive simulation of what is going on in a human’s head during depression. My friends used to tell me many times during the past 13 years that I’m in such a close relationship with depression that they cannot accurately imagine what I’m experiencing. VR then became a great instrument to answer that question differently than with helpless silence”, Ondřej Moravec told FNE.
The concept and the script were created together with screenwriter Alice Krajčírová, under the supervision of script consultant Zdeněk Blaha.
Bára Anna Stejskalová was in charge of the art direction and the visual concept. What was her way to adapt the story? “Just about when I started learning about virtual reality, Ondřej approached me with his project. As the film is based on memories and the inner world, the art style should be adapted and show ‘imperfections’ and a sort of dreamyness, as when we tend to recreate the memories in our heads. So we decided to try a hand painted approach, but in combination of 3D objects with hand-painted textures”, Bára Anna Stejskalová told FNE.
“Darkening is the first Czech film in virtual reality supported by the Czech Film Fund. At the beginning of the development we were very curious how the Fund would approach it and we are very happy that the council was so brave and supported us in the development and production,” Blaha Šilarová told FNE.
The project was supported by the Czech Film Fund with 240,000 EUR / 6,090,000 CZK, the Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg with 75,000 EUR, Filmtalent Zlín with 2,750 EUR / 70,000 CZK and Unity for Humanity with 5,000 EUR. The total budget was 560,000 EUR / 13,792,800 CZK.
The project was developed from early 2019 to May 2021 in the Czech Republic, and it was produced in July 2022 in the Czech Republic and Germany.
At Venice Immersive the VR film will be accompanied by a special installation.
Ondřej Moravec is a former programme director of the One World festival, where he introduced a separate programme for VR projects, similarly as at the Zlín Film Festival, the Summer Film School Uherské Hradiště, Anifilm and Febiofest.
Brainz Immersive (Czech Republic)
NowHere Media (Germany)
Director, screenwriter: Ondřej Moravec
Lead art director and concept artist: Bára Anna Stejskalová
Art director: Long Phi Trieu
Art producer: Hynek Svatoš
Unity developer: Jozef Barančik
Sound designer: Tomáš Oramus
Screenwriter: Alice Krajčírová
Head of technology: Ondřej Pultera
Head of production: Violeta Ivanova
UX, script consultant: Zdeněk Blaha UX
Art director NowHere Media: Moritz Mayerhofer
Developer, technical artist NowHere Media: Felix Lange
Music and Sound Mixing NowHere Media: Billy Mello