Sweetie and I have been wanting to see Jason Springarn-Koff's 2009 Second Life-based documentary Life 2.0 since forever. Tonight we found it available to stream on Netflix and immediately watched it.
I'd been looking forward to seeing the film. I didn't remember anyone panning it, so I began watching in anticipation. The first hint that something was amiss was the mournful cello playing.
Now I love to hear a cello. I fell in love with the instrument not via Tchaikovsky or Mozart, but on the title track of the Bee Gees' album Odessa. That cello is haunting. Tonight's cello seemed to be playing a dirge.
It was a logical choice for the soundtrack. The movie was, as Sweetie wrote in an online review immediately after seeing it, relentlessly negative.
Springarn-Koff's film follows four Second Life avatars over a period of a year or so, with periodic head shots of SL founder Philip Rosedale, an appearance of the real-life financee of one of the avatars and, occasionally and briefly, the filmmaker's avatar. In the tradition of Frederic Wiseman, there is no voiceover.
The movie opens with avatars and online lovers Amie Goode and Bluntly Berblinger. Berblinger describes their behavior as emotional adultery; the film maker immediately cuts to the two, who live thousands of miles from one another, meeting in real life. Emotional my ass!
Berblinger and Goode are tracked as their SL relationships end their marriages and Berblinger leaves Alberta for Goode's home in Westchester, NY. Not surprisingly, things immediately fall apart and Berblinger, after a scene in which he shows his abusive side, heads back home.
A second arc follows 11-year-old female avatar Aaya Aabye, who is compulsively played by a young man whose visage is initially obscured by shadows. Eventually he is shown full-face, which made Sweetie and I wonder if, as the filming progressed, Springarn-Koff was pressuring him to increase his exposure. Aabye is eventually killed off (account closed) by her maker with his engagement still intact, but an ensuing discussion results in his financee leaving. The unnamed young man then creates a young male avatar and comes to consciously acknowledge that he had been sexually abused by his father when he was a child. As a mental health professional I'm often skeptical about such recovered memories, so it's entirely possible it's something he cooked up in his head. It's also entirely possible that it happened. I hope he is seeing a therapist to sort himself out.
|The Human Behind Avatar Asri Falcone|
Both Sweetie and I were expecting a balanced or even positive film about Second Life-- that because of what we had heard when the film was released. We didn't get that. From the funereal score to an opening shot which cuts from two married-in-real-life avatars cheating in real life to a scene in which a man with a face obscured by darkness talked about his 11-year-old female avatar to a purposefully filmed shot showing the flaws of the house in which Asri Falcone's human lives in (yes!) her parents' basement, Life 2.0 is meant to show Second Life's creepy side. The cinematography accentuates this by focusing on parts of the faces of the humans in the film. You know what, fuck Jason Springarn-Koff. He's an ass who set out to trash Second Life and he managed not to get caught in it, at least by some reviewers (the New York Times got it, though!).
There’s no excuse, though, for one reprehensible sequence in which the camera descends into the basement of a Detroit home, while a cello saws ominously on the soundtrack, and creeps up behind a large, pajama-clad woman at a computer, primarily to shock us with the visual contrast between her Second Life avatar and her actual body. It’s enough to make you want to escape the real world.Of all the avatars, I felt sorry only for Asri. Here was a talented, hard-working, positive woman who lost a business she worked for years to build to a scuzzbag who copied and sold her wares because of a bug Second Life should have damn well fixed and who was compensated only a few hundred dollars when she went to court.
Asri is no longer in Second Life; she deleted her account due to thievery and griefing (her account was hacked, large sums of money stolen, and her inventory deleted, most likely by the sumbitch who she took to court. Today she operates with a new avatar and has rebuilt her business. God bless her for her courage and stamina. Most people would have left the the world for good.
There are lots of great films about Second Life. Jason Springarn-Koff didn't make any of them.