Sweet Life Online

Having become a world-wide internet phenomenon, Second Life is now labelled as a social network rather than a game. Since its launch on the internet in 2003, it has accumulated some 16 million users and their avatars. Though facing several competitors, it has retained a great popularity among its users. It might be due to its laconic, telling title; who would not long for a second life?

Among several documentary films reflecting this phenomenon on the international scene, The Cat, the Reverend and the Slave ranks among the best ones. French-Japanese duo of multimedia artists Allan della Negra and Kaori Nishita have been dealing with the theme of multiple identities and their overlapping on a long-term basis; so that their interest in Second Life users represents a logical continuation of their work. However, with respect to their previous projects, one cannot expect a sociological examination or philosophical reflection of the meaning or even “danger“ of life on-line. It is not their ambition to explore whether Second Life is rather a huge shopping mall or a brothel, as discussed on the forums of dissatisfied users.
Encounters with users are held in a way similar to that of the online world. For that matter, after watching the film for a while, an attentive spectator will suddenly realize: “I’m already there!” The filmmakers have constructed their film so that it looks like the Second Life world. It is not only due to its formal aspect, which imitates the aesthetics of the virtual world of the avatars in a sophisticated way, that the following question comes to mind: “Which of the worlds we live in is the “second” one?” This notion is further supported by the choice of protagonists, whose real and virtual identities are partially overlapping; e.g. the propagator of the club of the “Furries” – i.e. the “Cat” mentioned in the title – wears furry cat’s ears both on the monitor and in front of it.
As an essential theme of the film, the mutual permeability of the real and the virtual world is introduced from the very first sequence, with one of the protagonists describing the course of his life by means of Googlemaps satellite images. After a rather inconspicuous beginning, the film continues to draw the spectators into more and more bizarre forms of life on-line. Developing its theme, the film culminates in the final sequence, blurring all of the boundaries for good in the form of an “art” festival Burning Man taking place in the fantastic countryside of the Nevada desert, interconnecting the world of the “game” with the world of “reality” beyond recognition.

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