She would not say of any one in the world that they were this or were that. She felt very young; at the same time unspeakably aged. She sliced like a knife through everything; at the same time was outside, looking on. She had a perpetual sense, as she watched the taxi cabs, of being out, far out to the sea and alone; she always had the feeling that it was very, very dangerous to live even one day.
– Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway
For this week’s assignment, we were asked to redesign a narrative experience according to the agile human-centric design principles we discussed last week.
For my source material, I drew from the themes and text of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway, a 1925 novel written in a stream of consciousness literary style that sketches the portrait of life of one woman, Clarissa Dalloway, during the course of one single day.
In the first chapter of the book, Clarissa walks the streets around London running errands in preparation for a party she is throwing that night. When I reread the book, I was struck by the ways in which the novel sharpens our attention to details of time and space, especially the specificity of London during Clarissa’s walks. Time is a significant theme in the novel, with clocks ringing the hour and signs of aging and death made hypervisible in the text. So much of the narration in the novel occurs inside the head of the protagonist, with special attention paid to her surroundings.
With this project, I wanted to explore creating a film that employs this stream of consciousness narrative style while physically putting you in the shoes of the protagonist. I chose to reimagine Mrs Dalloway as an immersive VR/360 experience in order to explore this narrative style not only in text, but also in film.
The idea behind the project was to film myself walking in New York using 360 video, paired with a voice over narration of the opening chapter of the novel. I made slight changes to the text in order to accommodate the sharp departure in setting (from 1925 London to 2016 New York). Much of the narration in the novel is observational — Clarissa sees a woman in a taxi cab, she arrives at the park, she looks in shop windows — and I wanted to replicate those moments in the film as much as possible.
Check out the initial prototype of my idea.
My audience for this project could be anyone, really. Because it’s a 360 video, the user has full control over what he or she is looking at during the film. Just like London, New York is replete with observational details; I wanted the audience to experience that same sensory overload in my project.