Emperor

Marion Burger (FR), Ilan J. Cohen (FR)

EMPEROR is an interactive and narrative experience in virtual reality, which invites the user to travel inside the brain of a father who is suffering from aphasia. It is the story of a man who’s lost his ability to speak, and of the daughter trying to communicate with him. It is the story of a woman, who wasn’t given the chance to know the man behind her father, now obscured by this illness.  As she tries to piece together what remains of his language, she discovers that his relationship to words is connected to his memories. The memories of an entire lifetime... Step by step, clue after clue, we will dive alongside her into the inner world of this man, in an attempt to decipher the story he can no longer tell us.  

In a monochrome aesthetic, close to traditional animation, this personal story is told as a journey with surreal overtones, offering to explore aphasia as a distant country. EMPEROR is a poetic experience of the loss of one’s faculties, of the passing of time, and of the bonds which, through it all, remain. 

 

Director’s statement 

EMPEROR is based on a true story—the story of Marion’s father, who has been suffering from aphasia for the past fifteen years. He confuses words, and stumbles over each syllable. He understands everything, but can no longer make himself understood.  

More than the medical aspect of his condition, she was interested in the poetry of some of the absurd situations which she had sometimes encountered. One day she found herself comparing aphasia to a distant country. She could see him lost in this faraway land, trying to find his bearings, attempting to be understood. This idea helped her imagine his distress, and a bridge to try to reach him. But in order to grasp what he was trying to say, she’d have to delve into the man he had once been.  

EMPEROR is at once a deeply personal story, and a universal reminder of the frail threads which keep us tethered to one another. 

Marion Burger & Ilan J. Cohen

EMPEROR is an interactive and narrative experience in virtual reality, which invites the user to travel inside the brain of a father who is suffering from aphasia. It is the story of a man who’s lost his ability to speak, and of the daughter trying to communicate with him. It is the story of a woman, who wasn’t given the chance to know the man behind her father, now obscured by this illness.  As she tries to piece together what remains of his language, she discovers that his relationship to words is connected to his memories. The memories of an entire lifetime... Step by step, clue after clue, we will dive alongside her into the inner world of this man, in an attempt to decipher the story he can no longer tell us.  

In a monochrome aesthetic, close to traditional animation, this personal story is told as a journey with surreal overtones, offering to explore aphasia as a distant country. EMPEROR is a poetic experience of the loss of one’s faculties, of the passing of time, and of the bonds which, through it all, remain. 

 

Director’s statement 

EMPEROR is based on a true story—the story of Marion’s father, who has been suffering from aphasia for the past fifteen years. He confuses words, and stumbles over each syllable. He understands everything, but can no longer make himself understood.  

More than the medical aspect of his condition, she was interested in the poetry of some of the absurd situations which she had sometimes encountered. One day she found herself comparing aphasia to a distant country. She could see him lost in this faraway land, trying to find his bearings, attempting to be understood. This idea helped her imagine his distress, and a bridge to try to reach him. But in order to grasp what he was trying to say, she’d have to delve into the man he had once been.  

EMPEROR is at once a deeply personal story, and a universal reminder of the frail threads which keep us tethered to one another. 

Marion Burger & Ilan J. Cohen

astreaimmersive.io/full-line-up/emperor

Direction:  Marion Burger, Ilan J. Cohen 

Production: Oriane Hurard (Atlas V), Katharina Weser (Reynard Films), Jeanne Marchalot (France Télévisions) 

Narration: Olivia Cooke, Vimala Pons 

Made by: Albyon Studio 


With support from: CNC, FFF Bayern, Région Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, MEDIA Creative Europe, Medienboard Berlin-Brandeburg, Bourse Beaumarchais Orange XR, Région Sud, Procirep-Angoa, Fondation Audiens Générations, SLM, Pico, Astrea

Ilan J. Cohen (FR) (*1984) has been working as a first assistant director since 2008 (including Noaz Deshe’s White Shadow, Lodge Kerrigan’s Rebecca H., and Bertrand Bonello’s Sarah Winchester) while pursuing his own screenwriting and directing music videos (Rone, Gaspar Claus). 

Marion Burger (FR) (*1987) is a production designer, working on several feature films including Divines by Houda Benyamina (Caméra d’or 2016), Gagarine by Jérémy Trouilh and Fanny Liatard (Cannes 2020) and Mother and Son by Léonor Serraille (Cannes 2022), for which she was awarded the Young Film Technician Prize. Based on her personal story, EMPEROR marks her directorial debut.

Ilan J. Cohen (FR) (*1984) has been working as a first assistant director since 2008 (including Noaz Deshe’s White Shadow, Lodge Kerrigan’s Rebecca H., and Bertrand Bonello’s Sarah Winchester) while pursuing his own screenwriting and directing music videos (Rone, Gaspar Claus). 

Marion Burger (FR) (*1987) is a production designer, working on several feature films including Divines by Houda Benyamina (Caméra d’or 2016), Gagarine by Jérémy Trouilh and Fanny Liatard (Cannes 2020) and Mother and Son by Léonor Serraille (Cannes 2022), for which she was awarded the Young Film Technician Prize. Based on her personal story, EMPEROR marks her directorial debut.

Emperor is a personal experience that leverages the imperfections of VR technology to emphasize the struggles of the main protagonist of the story. Using analog, pencil-style technique in the 3D space, the work creates a unique combination of the well-optimized experience which perfectly fits the narrative. This approach brilliantly guides us through the narrative, enabling us to feel the story rather than merely being told about the family's struggles. The artistic style of the work, where objects suddenly appear or images jump from one scene to another seamlessly, aligns with the theme of fading memories, directing our focus towards the most poignant aspects of this journey.

Emperor is a personal experience that leverages the imperfections of VR technology to emphasize the struggles of the main protagonist of the story. Using analog, pencil-style technique in the 3D space, the work creates a unique combination of the well-optimized experience which perfectly fits the narrative. This approach brilliantly guides us through the narrative, enabling us to feel the story rather than merely being told about the family's struggles. The artistic style of the work, where objects suddenly appear or images jump from one scene to another seamlessly, aligns with the theme of fading memories, directing our focus towards the most poignant aspects of this journey.