“Darkening”, the first Czech animated film in virtual reality

“Darkening” (“Tmání” in Czech) traces director Ondřej Moravec’s struggle with mental illness from childhood to adulthood. The main interested party testified for Radio Prague International:

Ondrej Moravec | Photo: Anaïs Chesnel, Radio Prague Int.

“I’ve been dealing with depression for fifteen years, so my goal was to raise awareness about this disease, because I still feel like there’s a lot of stigma. Many people refuse to talk about their mental health issues. However, the way we look at this disease is slowly improving, and I think that’s important. »

Ondřej, the main character, accompanies the viewer on this journey. We share his feelings during his first depressive episodes in elementary school, then in university, when he struggled somehow to achieve good results, and finally in his adult life during battles everyday with the disease.

'Darkening' | Photo: Ondrej Moravec

With him and while going through an interactive story, the spectator literally touches his world and can thus lend a hand to the hero. For a moment, the film allows you to experience and understand the daily life of a depressed person. The short film also invites the public to test mechanisms to feel better.

A debate on mental health

“Darkening” opens up a debate about mental health and offers hope that it is possible to lead a full life despite depression. Far, therefore, from certain stereotypical representations, according to the film’s producer Hana Blaha Šilarová:

Hana Blaha Šilarová | Photo: Anaïs Chesnel, Radio Prague Int.

“Incorporating characters who have mental health issues into fiction films would be a good thing, in my opinion. These characters are generally portrayed in a stereotypical way, namely that the depressed person is unable to do anything. We could thus see more characters in 3D who, while suffering from depression or psychic problems, manage to lead a normal life. »

The director of “Darkening” considers that virtual reality allows a better approach to the subject:

“I think that’s one of the things that some filmmakers do, but not often enough. In my opinion, virtual reality allows you to see things from a slightly different angle, the perception of a person can have a different intensity. »

'Darkening' | Photo: Ondrej Moravec

3D animation

The film can be watched with glasses specially designed for virtual reality. The viewer is fully involved during the twenty minutes of viewing. It is then sometimes for him to use his own voice or to pick up imaginary objects. This unique experience, which will therefore appeal to film buffs and video game enthusiasts, also allows the creators of the short film to establish a direct link with the public, unlike classic films, as the producer explains:

Glasses designed for virtual reality | Photo: CT24

“I really like this medium of virtual reality because it adds an extra dimension to the film to better express ourselves. The experience really opened my eyes because some things are similar to classic movies: for example, you have to have a script. 3D animation is both similar and different in that, as a producer, you have to think about other things than producing more traditional films. You have to think about interactivity, what can happen if the audience reacts or, on the contrary, doesn’t react… And you have to think about a lot of dimensions in terms of animation since you have a 360 degree 3D world around from you. »

'Darkening' | Photo: Ondrej Moravec

It was precisely during the creation of the film that the production team had the idea of ​​offering the viewing of “Darkening” to a more targeted audience. As the story takes place when the main character is ten to twenty years old, screenings are regularly offered in Czech schools to address the subject of mental health in adolescence, with the support of a psychologist. An idea welcomed with great enthusiasm according to Ondřej Moravec:

“So far, the reception from the public has been very positive. We offer intensive programs in schools. We visit three schools each week to talk to students about mental health issues. I am very surprised to see how open the students are to discussion. They tell us about the problems they have at home or at school. It doesn’t affect all of them, of course, but at their age, I would never have imagined myself sharing my problems in front of the whole class. I feel like people today are more open to sharing these sensitive things. »

Video of Darkening / Trailer / 26th Ji.hlava IDFF

The premiere at the Venice Film Festival

Asked about her reaction to the success of the film, when the short film was screened last September at the Venice International Film Festival, producer Hana Blaha Šilarová explains:


“Of course, we were hoping that a lot of people would see the film and when we were very happy to attend its premiere in Venice. It was very prestigious. But to be honest, we now offer screenings in schools and when I see teenagers open up about the subject of mental health, it gives me even greater joy. I also think that it is the greatest success that we could hope for. »

Another success may be in the offing as ‘Darkening’ was nominated for the 2023 Czech Lion Awards, given by the Academy of Film and Television. An exceptional nomination for the short film team, as evidenced by the director:

Photo: Anaïs Chesnel, Radio Prague Int.

“I was really happy and I didn’t expect it, because Czech cinema is very strong in animation. There is a long tradition and many great filmmakers. This is the first Czech virtual reality project to be included in the category of best animated film. Now we just have to wait for the final decision of the Academy. »

The awards ceremony, which will celebrate its 30th anniversary this year, will take place on March 4. Until then, the film continues to appear on the program of the DOX center until mid-February, with the possibility for this last month of screening to share its experiences during a debate with the director.

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“Darkening”, the first Czech animated film in virtual reality

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