Blending technology with voyeurism to subvert the male gaze, this VR short makes a strong point violence against women while thoroughly immersing the viewer in something akin to a horror story.
When VR is done right, it’s an immersive and sometimes uncomfortably involving experience. BLOODLESS (동두천) is a great example of using that technology to tell a story with a powerful message. Over the course of the 360 degree experience we go from being observers to voyeurs, and even uncomfortable accessories to a violent crime.
Director Gina Kim sets her film in around the camp town sex workers for US army stationed in South Korea since the 1950s. The short film places us on those streets, where Kim brings us an interpretation of the true events surrounding the death of a sex worker at the hands of a US soldier at the Dongducheon Camptown in 1992.
Of course, it’s almost better not knowing any of this upon entering the experience. Placing us on a moderately busy intersection, we watch GIs, sex workers, and other people wandering past us as day shifts into night. It’s the first slight erosion of the concept of time, setting us up for other mental leaps later.
Soon we find our attention subtly turned to a single woman, presumably a sex worker. Following her echoing footsteps down alleys and laneways, this is where it begins to feel more voyeuristic, especially when we find ourselves “waiting” in a darkened alley for her arrival.
Yet as soon as this sensation creeps in, there is a sudden tonal shift as we find ourselves standing right in front of the woman we’ve been following. Turning the gaze around, she stares at us for what feels like a long time. As a VR viewer we can either hold her gaze or look away. Accusatory guilt over our prior voyeurism is implicit in the moment.
The final room is the most likely to disturb audiences, as we are standing (almost floating) in a single room apartment. After wondering if we should be there at all, we ponder whether someone is sleeping under that blanket on the ground. We notice a mirror in the corner. It is angled to not return our reflection.
After being distracted by footsteps, possibly from the corridor outside the ajar door, we notice movement in the mirror. Blood is trickling out of the blanket, and as we turn around, we are practically standing in the red liquid that’s pooling at our feet. A further distraction makes us look away, but turning back to the mirror we notice a body on the bed. Turning around, there is nobody there. At least until we find ourselves standing over the body.
Which is where Kim leaves us, fading to black with a note about how many women have been killed and the inability of either government to accept responsibility. Yet what she has really left us with is a kind of personal responsibility as we are now a part of that cycle.
— Richard Gray, Oct 9, 2017