Taking top prize at Venice’s latest International Film Festival of La Biennale di Venezia, under the category Venice VR Expanded, Goliath: Playing With Reality isn’t your average tale of adversity.
For starters, the project is voiced by Tilda Swinton, the Queen of Fantasy herself. The award-winning actor’s monologues are impassioned and probing, whisking you through a digital dreamland filled with pixels and colossal 3D forms. “Can you tell the difference between what is and isn’t real?” Swinton asks, her words dripping with existential wonder. “When the one thing that links you to the outside world disappears, where does that leave you?” With your goggles as the vessel, it certainly won’t be long until you find out.
This experience explores the true story of Goliath, a gamer who has been diagnosed with mental health issues such as schizophrenia and psychosis. Unintentionally cut off from the world at large, Goliath’s only connection with his fellow man is formed through the meaningful relationships he fosters with those online. Despite it all sounding a bit ‘stranger danger’, the project leans fully into the interactivity and infinite possibilities of these spaces, telling Goliath’s story through intricately crafted worlds and feelings of camaraderie with the unfamiliar participants inside them.
“Goliath talks about the places we choose to feel safe in. It is an exploration of what it means to experience someone else’s reality. In GOLIATH we introduce users to a world where things aren’t as they seem. This story helps us grasp how fragile reality is and how easy it is to lose sight of it,” explains Barry Gene Murphy and May Abdalla, two directors for the boundary-pushing project. “Ultimately this experience is about our preconceptions and prejudices around mental health and about how the shame engendered by so-called psychiatric disorders distances us from the feelings of people presenting these behaviours.”
Coming to BFI’s Southbank location on 10th May, players will be invited to weave themselves through the various surroundings of this mind-bending, 25-minute journey on an Oculus Quest console, whose ‘VR for good’ initiative funded the project in its early stages. You may even recognise a few classic video games on your travels, handpicked by Anagram, the creative studio behind the project, to help unpack the prejudices of serious and oft-misunderstood mental health conditions. Everything you see might just be part of the game, but everything you feel? That’s all real.
Goliath opens May 10th, tickets can be booked through the BFI box office here.