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Review: Knit’s Island


- Ekiem Barbier, Guilhem Causse and Quentin L’helgoualc’h transport us to a world where reality and metaverse fight to maintain a precarious and eternally jeopardised balance

Review: Knit’s Island

The winner of the Burning Lights Prize at Visions du Réel where it was presented in a world premiere, Knit’s Island [+see also:
film profile
by the trio of French directors composed of Ekiem Barbier, Guilhem Causse and Quentin L’helgoualc’h stands out as an audacious and aesthetically powerful work which makes us think about the concept of “reality”. Shot entirely in the world of VR, in a fantasy universe which many aren’t even familiar with, Knit’s Island deftly creates a dialogue between fiction and reality, between the concreteness of everyday life and the virtuality of the metaverse.

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An extension, of sorts, of the experience they initiated with their medium-length movie Marlow Drive, which was based on images taken from the GTA V videogame, this latest work by Français Ekiem Barbier, Guilhem Causse and Quentin L’helgoualc’h is both captivating and troubling, ethereal yet dangerously real.

In a remote location between the virtual districts of the internet, mysterious characters struggle for survival. The directors, or rather their avatars, decided to spend 963 hours in this parallel universe, speaking to those who choose this virtual world as a refuge; a kind of panic room where they can shelter from a reality which can often be too intense and suffocating. The players of the DayZ videogame tell the three French documentary-makers about their fears, their hopes and the ghosts which haunt them, amidst an at times disconcerting toing and froing between reality and metaverse.

The approach taken by Ekiem Barbier, Guilhem Causse and Quentin L’helgoualc’h is an explosive blend of cinema and videogames, between virtual reality and the gamers’ everyday lives, which sometimes unexpectedly wind their way into the film’s narration. For example, the scene where we hear the son of one of the female gamers crying in the background and the latter leaving the game to soothe him, is surprising and wonderfully destabilising. The look on her avatar’s face, now devoid of any “life”, seems to be staring into oblivion, like a doll with no will of its own.

Rather than forcing the narrative or using cinematic tricks, the three French directors allow themselves to be guided by their encounters, constructing their story in line with the tales and testimonies of the other avatars. Whether cannibalistic or armed to the teeth, whether a reverend (Reverend Stone) who wants to give comfort to lost souls or a group of ravers who transcend their fears of annihilation by way of music, Knit’s Island offers up characters who are both frightening and touching, repulsive and fascinating. As one of the gamers explains, VR is just like a local pub: there are people who get on, and others who hate each other, but that’s all part of the game. Far more than a superficial critique of gamers addicted to gratuitous violence, Knit’s Island intelligently tackles themes about the boundary between reality and VR. A place of fiction where we can lose ourselves, but also an escape and a free space for experimenting with extreme emotions, VR is an integral part of “Reality”. And Knit’s Island is a human and sociological experience which gives us a sense of community extending beyond the real as we know it. "I’m just Frank", confesses Reverend Stone at the end of the film, reminding us that, ultimately, we all wear a mask. But it’s up to us which one we choose.

Knit’s Island is produced by French firm Les Films Invisibles.

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(Translated from Italian)

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