Black Mirror Bandersnatch: The hidden meaning in a sofa and an artwork
The interactive film Black Mirror: Bandersnatch has brought us joy and fear in equal measures. Fear in choosing the fate of young computer games programmer Stefan, and joy in delving deeper into some clever hidden narrative in the set decoration including the De Sede Non Stop sofa and the Power Corruption and Lies album cover in Colin’s apartment.
The Black Mirror science fiction series, created and written by Charlie Brooker and executive produced by Brooker and Annabel Jones, taps into our collective unease with the modern world. Each stand-alone episode presents a sharp, suspenseful tale exploring themes of techno-paranoia leading to a sometimes unsettling conclusion. A bit like a Tales of the Unexpected for the modern world. Technology has transformed all aspects of our lives: We live with screens in our homes, on our desks and in our pockets – these ‘black mirrors’ reflecting our 21st Century existence back at us.
Bandersnatch, the newest in the Black Mirror series launched on Netflix on December 28th comes with an added dimension: The viewer is asked to dictate the story by making a series of choices for protagonist Stefan Butler (Fionn Whitehead, who you will remember from Dunkirk) at various stages of the interactive film. Netflix’s first adult-oriented/live action interactive experience is set in the 1980s where Stefan has hopes of creating a best-selling, text-based computer game inspired by a ‘choose your own adventure’-style novel given to him as a child.
Stefan produces the game for video game company Tuckersoft, which is run by Mohan Thakur (Asim Chaudhry) and employs the famous game creator Colin Ritman (Will Poulter of Maze Runner fame). When Stefan finds himself in computer guru Colin’s apartment (set in the Goldfinger designed Brutalist-style Trellick Tower) we find some captivating furniture, art and set decoration. On the surface some of these choices look simply like cool pieces, but dig a bit deeper and you’ll find a web of hidden meaning and relevance in some of these film set props.
Colin’s flat boasts a vintage leather De Sede Non Stop sofa. The ‘DS-600’ as it is is known, is an outstanding design created in 1972 by the Switzerland-based furniture company De Sede. This sofa has endless configurations and possible compositions – just like the Bandersatch interactive story – because any number of upholstered segments of the seating can be zipped together, allowing free-flowing mobile concepts as well as conventional furniture arrangements. It has taken its place in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s longest sofa.
The choice of music is central to the film and we hear classics of the 1980s including Relax by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Hold Me Now by Thompson Twins, Here Comes the Rain Again by Eurythmics, Too Shy by Kajagoogoo, Making Plans for Nigel by XTC and Love On a Real Train by Tangerine Dream.
Another key music reference and indeed a nod to coding, is found in a large artwork of New Order’s album Power, Corruption and Lies released in 1983 by Factory Records. Stefan’s hallucinogenic state brings the poster alive and he starts to interact with it, swirling the colours of the pink and white flowers together with his hand.
The artwork designed by British graphic designer Peter Saville has a colour-based code to represent the band’s name and the title of the album. The decoder for the code could be found on the back cover of the album and can also be seen on the singles Blue Monday and Confusion. The image itself is a reproduction of Henri Fantin-Latour’s painting called A Basket of Roses which is part of the National Gallery‘s permanent collection in London. Saville said that the flowers “suggested the means by which power, corruption and lies infiltrate our lives”.
We also find a poster of the book cover of Philip K Dick’s 1969 science fiction novel Ubik. This book was reviewed at the time by Lev Grossman of the Times who described it as “a deeply unsettling existential horror story, a nightmare you’ll never be sure you’ve woken up from”. Very fitting for Bandersnatch.
The film runs at approximately 90 mins for the default path, however with multiple storyline choices throughout leading to 5 possible end scenarios the time extends as you see fit into an unsettling, existential ride in true Black Mirror style. We hope you enjoy the journey as much as we did and if you spot any other hidden meanings in the choice of furniture and decor please let share them in the comments box below.