12 minutes, an elegant thriller in a time loop, carries within it the love of cinema of the developer Luis Antonio through various allusions and tributes. The most obvious of these is of course the time loop mechanism itself, which is immediately reminiscent of the 1993 film. Groundhog day. References to cinema in 12 minutes are more complex and nuanced than the link between time-looped narratives and groundhog daybecause these stories are popular in a variety of movies and video games. The game is both thematic and visual interspersed with references to the cinema of Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrik and to film genres in general.
Luis Antonio was quite candid about how the films influenced 12 minutes, from placement to casting. The game’s puzzling ending and unreliable narrator become a clear product of it once all of the film’s references are examined and understood to be in conversation with movie history. While some of these references are obvious, others are more subtle and require contextualization.
12 minutes: the actors and the setting
One of the most obvious links with cinema in 12 minutes is the cast. Luis Antonio used the role of James McAvoy in Dirt to help him design the protagonist; McAvoy also received praise for his role in To divide and A glass, in which he plays a character with dissociative identity disorder. Daisy Ridley is of course famous for her role in Star wars and thus brings with it a feeling of a great blockbuster. She has also completed projects in a variety of genres since Star wars, such as The Orient-Express. Finally, Willem Dafoe is well known for his roles in artistic and experimental films that play with reality, such as Lighthouse Where Antichrist.
There is only one named character in the entire game, which emphasizes how well these actors perform in the base character game. This is not uncommon in experimental and arthouse cinema, where attention is shifted from the narrative of a film to its artifice; this type of cinema deliberately draws attention to itself to encourage the viewer to ask big questions. 12 minutes deconstructs the typical narrative by having nameless and untrustworthy characters; as such, it becomes a more abstract story.
The setting of 12 minutes in one apartment is inspired by films like Rear window and The brilliant. These films seem claustrophobic and the enclosed space usually drives their protagonists to madness. The repeated gameplay of 12 minutes likewise is sometimes exhausting and frustrating, as it would be to relive the same 12 minutes over and over again; there is little effort to make the player more comfortable as this is mostly an intentional part of the gameplay. Even the carpet in the hallway at the start of the game pays a direct tribute to The shiny, in which the pattern of the rug is a repeated motif and an allusion to the growing insanity of Jack Torrence.
Voyeurism and confrontation in 12 minutes
NOTE: Trace spoilers from here.
Some of the less obvious ties to cinema come from the structure and themes of 12 minutes. Once the protagonist’s true identity is revealed, it becomes clear that the game intentionally misled audiences. At this point in the game, the non-linear storytelling and slow revealing of clues is similar in many ways to movies like Memento. Additionally, the unusual narrative structure intentionally makes the player uncomfortable. To understand how 12 minutes uses this discomfort, it is worth noting the visual and narrative similarities to Michael Haneke’s cinema and the broader cinematic traditions it represents.
The inability to look at husband and wife in 12 minutes being captured or killed multiple times by the cop is reminiscent of Haneke’s movie Funny games, in which he uses long still shots during a brutal home invasion. Likewise, the identity of the home invaders in this film is unclear, as is the cop in 12 minutes. In Funny games, Haneke breaks the Fourth Wall multiple times to remind viewers that this is a movie they are watching (emphasizing a larger question of why people watch violent movies).
One way Funny games is it asking the invaders to use a TV remote control to rewind the actual events of the movie, while 12 minutes repeatedly rewinds the husband to the starting point to undo the events he has made. The fact that no concrete answer is given regarding the time loop (although there are a few clues), and it draws players’ attention to the fact that this is a game.
Common themes in Haneke’s film include surveillance and voyeurism. In Hidden, The Laurent family’s video recordings fill the screen for moments in the film, giving audiences the impression of being as sinister as the one recording that footage. 12 minutes The top down view evokes that feeling of spying on husband and wife throughout the traumatic events of the game. There is even a slight static effect on the game that makes it feel like a surveillance footage in which the subject does not know that it is filmed.
Finally, the game has a conflicting subject that challenges the player, which is common in Haneke’s films and also in films like Park Chan-wook’s. Old boy. The exploration of taboo subjects can be found in arthouse, independent and some national cinemas; its shock factor is usually designed to confront the viewer and make them a more active viewer. The debate between what makes an active versus a passive audience dates back decades in cinema, but in general, video games are considered to have a more active audience because they involve interaction.
The style and subject of 12 minutes Certainly not everyone will enjoy it, but there’s a reason for some of its more confusing or frustrating elements. This game was very well designed to incite debate, speculation and discussion and was inspired by the traditions of cinema to do so. Without a doubt, there are more movie references scattered around this game, but the connections above help explain some of the main talking points about this game.
12 minutes is now available on PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X / S.
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