‘Allumette’; a Virtual Reality Fairy Tale of Love and Loss
Allumette, a marvelous virtual reality fairytale by Penrose Studios that debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival’s Virtual Arcade is set in a dreamy city in the sky. The magic of virtual reality is in its power to transport, and slowly spinning around in circles while this fantastical tale unfolds in 360 degrees is a feast for the eyes and emotions.
Allumette is Intimate
Allumette is an intimate, animated reinterpretation of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Match Girl,” which digs into the subject of the peculiar love shared between a mother and child and the impact of sacrifice for the greater good. “Allumette was very much driven from my own personal experience,” Penrose CEO Eugene Chung says. “I thought about the sacrifices my parents, particularly my mother, made growing up. She worked very hard to give her family the kind of life she never had. The themes of sacrifice and morality are themes that are very deep and dear to me.”
Penrose Studios create both Allumette and The Rose and I, a short film loosely based on The Little Prince. Clocking in at 20 minutes, compared to many VR experiences which range between five and ten, Allumette (or, “matchstick” in French) is an immersive filmmaking opus, a proof of concept for artists defining the lexicon of VR storytelling.
More About Allumette
The world in which Allumette takes place is modeled on Venice, with majestic boats drifting through wisps of cloud and cobbled bridges arching across blue sky. Many of Penrose’s artists and technologists have previously worked in Pixar and DreamWorks, and Allumette’s animation looks similarly tangible. Even though the film is rendered in CGI, the environment feels organic to the viewer. Lightly interactive, viewers can move around the world to examine it from any angle, and in an inspired touch reminiscent of dollhouses and Lego metropolises, lean in to make walls vanish, revealing bonus scenes inside tiny boats and houses. “In many ways we’re combining the best of video games and stage plays and cinema, and we’re putting them together in this completely new art form. When it comes to something like looking into the boat, that’s not something you can do in cinema,” Chung says.
Wearing a headset and entering the Allumette world is affecting, and Penrose’s work is a thrilling for pass the fledgling medium. “When I think of the early era of filmmaking, it’s almost like we’re back there. One of my favorite observances was by the film critic Pauline Kael, who talks about the early days of cinema as being this era of infinite exploration,” Chung said. “That’s where we think we are in VR. These are just the early stages.” It’s not just that Allumette is aesthetically beautiful, it also proves that filmmakers can tell emotional, multi-act stories in VR. This opens the door for virtual reality to stretch beyond the prevalence of documentaries and gaming and step into the narrative realm, and that, in and of itself, is a triumph.
Allumette will be available to all viewers later in 2016 on Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and also as a launch title on PlayStation VR.