It takes courage, ambition, and a little bit of madness to deconstruct the entire film industry through the medium of video games. But that is the capture target of Sam Barlow’s new release, Immortality, a puzzle wrapped in a mystery within a mystery.
arlow takes form with an eccentric structure, his previous two games centered around the concept of found video footage where the player must decipher the truth about a murder and a series of eco-terrorism. Immortal repeat that system but Barlow and his co-authors (whose credits include The Queen’s Gambit, Mr Robot and David Lynch teamed up) drags us further down the rabbit hole.
We follow the curious career of Marissa Marcel, an actress who has acted in three films that were shot over a period of 30 years but never released. Then she disappeared. Your job is to sift through mountains of footage, footage, home movies, and rehearsals from the three films, piecing together the story to explain what happened to Marcel, a muse who became a muse. The female idol has become… well, what exactly?
Of course, Barlow demonstrates all of this with a twist: starting with just a single clip, the player can go through the footage and click on a face or object that takes you to another piece of code that has same person or something.
This match-cutter proved extremely confused at first, jumping through decades and three movies between scenes that could last 10 seconds or five minutes. Before long, you realize a notebook could be a good idea as Barlow churns out a rich cast and a large amount of what appear to be disjointed plots, from a period story medieval about religious lust (based on a true 18th century novel The Monk) to a 1970s detective story to a slick thriller about a pop star and her body.
Curiously, Marcel looks exactly the same throughout, with the actress playing her – newcomer Manon Gage – easily switching between her many roles and the other actors providing a genuine Hollywood cast for performances.
Barlow also has many layers, and beneath the surface of the plot is a composite commentary on Hollywood, from the Hitchcockian director’s misperception to the pervasive male gaze. It would be too far out of spoiler territory to discuss the supernatural elements but suffice it to say that you’ll be up against the terrifying moments involving the cruel and obnoxious characters Marcel encounters.
Barlow’s achievement here is to bury the player in encrypted information.
Some are hidden in long running scenes as the actors get out of character after the director screams.
Other clues faded into plain sight. However, much more is scattered through facial expressions, dialogue, and props throughout the 200+ clips you’ll eventually come across.
At the end of the journey, when you touch the surface of this mystery, you may find yourself watching multiple scenes continuously. You’re looking for something you missed, looking for an object that could unlock another clip or possibly lead you to a cursed revelation that explains Marcel’s fate.
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But until then, you’ll be hooked by this strange yet fascinating story, which, as Barlow says, is a why as well as a whodunnit.
https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/games/immortality-review-deconstruction-of-movies-drags-us-down-a-very-deep-rabbit-hole-41953617.html Immortality review: The film structure drags us down a very deep rabbit hole