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The initial premiere of ‘Le Musk’ took place at the Cannes XR program for the 75th Cannes Film Festival where it astonished all that saw it. Directed and scored by A.R. Rahman, it is a cinematic experience accentuated by smell, motion, and music. ‘Le Musk’ feels groundbreaking for the emergence of cultures and Cinema.
A thirty-six-minute film that takes you between the past and the future. Nora Arnezeder, known for ‘Army of the Dead’, plays Juliet, a musician that was orphaned nearly twenty years prior. Currently living in Rome, she seeks revenge for her family that was murdered. The confluence of scent and memory holds tight as Juliet attempts to find the three men she remembers from childhood. Other international stars make their appearance like Guy Burnet from ‘Oppenheimer’ and Munirih Grace from ‘Pure.’
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Creating ‘Le Musk’
A.R. Rahman has been synonymous with music over the last two decades, with work on ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ putting his name on the map. Ever since, Rahman has mainly worked on compositions for films like ‘127 Hours’ as well as his own music. Making his directorial debut has allowed him to combine his love with a new and exciting way to spring storytelling forward.
Rahman claims the idea came from the emergence of two coincidental moments in life. One was when his wife asked why scent is not often a plot device used in storytelling and two, his friend gave him a VR headset to try out. The coming together of these two things pushed Rahman to venture further with the idea.
This isn’t the first time Rahman has dabbled with technology. In 2016, Rahman used Intel’s Curie-based technology to make music using hand gestures and body movements. However, this time around Rahman had a story that could benefit from a wider range of equipment.
Rahman feels connected to film mainly by the technology used that intertwines the responsibilities of the director and music director. This combination is what excites Rahman to continue moving forward on this path. Making it a point in an interview, Rahman discussed the emotion of the story as the most important aspect of the project. “When using technology in this capacity the approach should be sensitive and used responsibly,” he said.
Senses in Cinema
In part, what makes the narrative compelling is the sensory experience that happens along with the film. Scent may be the most important as the mist of musk fills our noses several times throughout. The musk acts like a motif, representing the trauma that the protagonist has experienced. Scent emphasizes the memories that can be unlocked not just through images but other senses. All of us have those smells that take us back to a moment in the past, maybe our grandparents’ house or the school we went to as a child.
Taking us into a surrealistic experience where the past and the future blend together. The liminal spaces become blended as our associations begin to differentiate. Using virtual reality means getting closer to the reality that we are used to seeing in two dimensions. Several times during the experience you find yourself face-to-face with the subjects. The narration makes you feel like they are talking to you directly and being surrounded by these moments drags us into the ephemeral moments of Juliet’s memories.
The other key aspect comes from the music created by A.R. Rahman. The score adds new heights to the way a traditional sound mix comes about. The text painting adds subtleties and nuances that help get a point of view across. Another fun aspect is the song ‘What’s on a Man’s Mind’ which is featured at the end of the film. Shot like a Bollywood Noir, the song is accompanied by dazzling visuals and plenty to look at.
Experiencing ‘Le Musk’
Experiencing ‘Le Musk’ will be a first for most people as it may seem like a ride at Disney World. The combination of motion, music, scent, and haptics allows for a total sensory experience.
Everything begins by sitting in a Positron Voyager VR chair. These chairs are equipped with cutting-edge haptics that makes the chair vibrate, swivel, and tilt. Motion from the chair was enough to give the illusion of being on a boat in wavy conditions or flying through the mountains with gravitational forces against you.
Besides the chair, the main component is the virtual reality headset and headphones you put on. This is where the magic happens! If you haven’t experienced VR before, be careful if this is your first time as you could experience motion sickness. Virtual Reality does exactly what it is designed to do, immerse you in different realities.
‘Le Musk’ had been in the making for multiple years with contributions being made world-wide. The film was shot on fourteen different cameras that are able to capture quality video with super-resolution. Then post-produced in stereoscopic 360 VR workflow with higher resolutions and frame rates. The finished product ended up being finished by ten VFX workhouses from around the world! A true world effort!
With the goggles on, you will be able to move your head back and forth to see the set design. From lavish castles to natural landscapes you are immersed enough to take a look around and see a whole new perspective.
Where Technology Meets Storytelling
Virtual Reality has been developed mostly for games over the last few years. This is a first of its kind as it attempts to enhance the experience of Cinema through other sensory details. Technology has allowed for numerous ways in which stories can be consumed. Books and film were large mediums until the technology boom in the early 2000s. Now people consume narratives through Tik Toks, gaming, and the companies we shop from.
The combination of user experience and narrative only justifies why more of this kind of work should be happening. Now more than ever it seems difficult to get people into cinemas. The expansion of how stories are told is dependent on the mediums we can view them. With new technology, there’s no limit to what can be done. This kind of work helps to break ground between cultures, narrowing the margin between what is foreign and what isn’t. With room to grow, hopefully, there will be all kinds of new experiences that involve film narrative and virtual reality together in the future.
A.R. Rahman currently is in the process of completing his next project with the use of the same technology for a film based on Indian dances. Nora Arnezeder’s next film is ‘Tin Soldier’ co-starring alongside Jamie Foxx and Robert De Niro, directed by Brad Furman.
A. R. Rahman’s genius music composition will next be heard in the upcoming movie ‘Can I Go Home Now?’ directed by Pritan Ambroase. The film is about the Children of Ukraine and their experiences living during on-going war and under cruel terrorist attacks by Russia. The film is currently being filmed in war torn Ukraine.
Producer: Karan Grover
Director: A.R. Rahman
Writer: A.R. Rahman, Sairaa Rahman, and Gurachi Phoenix
Mentioned Cast: Nora Arnezeder, Guy Burnet, and Munirih Grace
By Devon James
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Devon James is a screen and media writer determined to provide readers with engaging and informative content. His film industry background gives him an adept knowledge in the entertainment industry. This complies with The Hollywood Insider’s mission to educate readers. Devon likes seeing hidden voices in film that provide new cultural perspectives. He enjoys the conversations cinema creates; hoping through his writing to open up topics for discussion.