Lucerne’s open-air virtual reality cinema offers a glimpse into the abyss

We were at the virtual reality open-air cinema, to watch movie stars in VR. A subjective view of a subjective form of cinema. I’ve been feeling a bit strange all day. Not really, more a bit detached from reality, from the others. In my very own universe. Exactly in the right state for a virtual reality experience. The VR Open Air of We Are Cinema has pitched its tents in Lucerne. “Bergluft” is the name of the first block of four short films. I can use them now.

So I cycle the usual way from the Alpineum to the Löwenplatz and first look left. Nothing unusual. Then turn right. In fact, where the Falun Gong activists usually stand, there are black and white plastic chairs, framed by four VR OpenAir cinema flags in every corner.

Together in their own movies

There is no free performance for journalists. “We are a start-up,” is the explanation. We are happy to pay the nineteen francs. The mixed crowd, fifteen of the twenty swivel chairs are occupied, is wearing Pico G2 VR glasses with a smartphone inserted – “the latest on the market”, I am assured – and HD headphones. The glasses create the impression of being “present” in virtual reality. Unfortunately, the panorama image is rarely really sharp. The images filmed with a 360-degree camera are put together using special software. The technology is expensive and in constant development.

I immerse myself in the all-round VR mountain world. My first VR experience was watching porn with mature women and I loved it, this time it was different but also interesting.

The Eiger and Mount Everest ascents are great. The sponsored videos about the Air Zermatt and the Jungfrau Railway are at best seen as television films. In the former, the seam, which is to join the two images together to form one, is also visible. When I look down from Mount Everest, the fear of heights briefly seizes me. I get slightly dizzy and hold on to the seat on both sides. Now I know what is meant by VR or simulator disease.

Everyone has something in common in their own film

VR cinema is a contradiction in terms. My senses are completely occupied with movement with head and legs, sometimes I miss the linguistic content. Irritating are the inserted advertising films. Getting started with Helvetas is a good start, also because it’s good quality. But to have to watch FDP President Petra Gössi hiking is going too far.

I am also going to the second performance this evening at 9 pm. I want to know exactly. A good five minutes before I arrive back at Löwenplatz. Nobody is there yet: “You don’t have to start because of me alone”, I say. But no, people would have already bought a ticket. So I buy one, too.

Three men, two young women, with me we are finally eight – a Päärli must be fetched still in the Bourbaki bar. After a little confusion – the announced film block “All Over The World” cannot be shown for “technical reasons” – “The World, Improved” starts with a film co-produced by Arte. I breathe a sigh of relief. The award-winning “The Real Thing” leads the viewer into Chinese replicas of Paris, Venice and Co. This is unusual and well done. The Girl Icon” and the Unicef film “Ready To Live, Ready To Learn” deal with the egalitarian right to education in India and Afghanistan. I feel myself a bit like in school, but the immersive power is noticeable when the girl Bibi appears so directly in front of my own nose.

We can’t go after Dani Arnold

I’m on my way home and I feel no less strange than all day. Maybe as a film editor I was the wrong person for this virtual reality experience, because the program offered on Tuesday evening in the VR Openair Cinema didn’t have much to do with cinema. In the field of video games you may be further along, but in cinema the “revolution in the consumption of digital content” has by no means arrived yet. And it’s not virtual reality in the real sense either, because we can’t move as we want in the film; we can’t go after Dani Arnold on the Eiger.

I prefer the conventional, artistic cinema experience, since the filmmaker has thought about where my gaze should go, and yet he can wander around on the two-dimensional surface (I also find 3D really good only in rare cases). But besides documentaries there are also animated films or genre films on the VR program, and, as we now know, the quality of films from all over the world is extremely different. Tonight is Horror Night (from 16 years). Maybe I’ll go again.