Eleven years after the company launch in 2005, Douban has just released its first brand film, a ‘visual poem’ created by prolific Shanghai agency W and director GingZim Lo.
Entitled ‘My Inner Space’, the abstract four-and-a-half minute piece puts us in the position of a young man as he endures a frightening journey from one harrowing real world scene to another, before breaking off his shackles and blasting off into the peaceful freedom of outer (inner) space.
Douban.com launched in 2005 as a broad platform for users to record information and create content related to film, books, music and events in China. At the peak of its popularity in 2012, the site attracted over 160m page views per day. However, amid fierce competition from emerging, more targeted social platforms, that number has plummeted below 30m.
Douban’s poster: You are pursuing those you don’t want to lose
W ECD Li Sanshui suggests the sites ethos has remained unchanged from the beginning; it was merely the communication of their message that needed better definition. He explains, “This is Douban’s first full campaign integrating online TVC, digital interactive HTML5, WeChat, social promotion, outdoor advertising, subway ads and cinema ads. We want to better position the brand, to tell people what Douban is all about. We want to both advertise the brand and cement its meaning”.
He goes on to outline the creative rationale, “This is a poem about the spirit of communicating and connecting, about sending a signal from one corner to every corner. We found “My Inner Space” was the perfect tagline to define the brand and reflect its qualities. It presents the connection between Douban and its users. Douban is the place to fulfill our spiritual needs and find out who we really are, a spiritual place in a material society.
The spot marks the second major collaboration between W and Taiwanese director Lo. Having won widespread acclaim for their ‘True Colour Of The Youth’ film for New Balance last year, Li had the director in mind for the Douban film from the earliest stages of the creative process, “After determining the strategy and the creative concept, [Lo] was the best candidate because, in a sense, our visions, his, mine and Douban’s, are all the same.”
The film’s poem was a collaboration by Li, Lo and the client. For the visual direction, he drew influence from a host of dark films including Silence of the Lambs, Apocalypse Now, 2001 A Space Odyssey, Hungarian drama Le Grand Cahier and Lars Von Trier’s ‘The Kingdom’. As the action lurches from one unsettling scene to another, at times it feels as if we are trapped in a disturbing dream. For Li however, rather than a representation of a nightmarish fantasy, the depictions in the film are in fact closer to reality than those in most commercials, “I feel they’re realistic. If you find them depressing or nightmarish, maybe that’s because daily exposure to modern commercials has eroded our idea of what real life is.”
Douban’s poster: Everyone has a wild imagination
The film is comprised entirely of original footage, shot in Taiwan over three days and nights, mostly with a GoPro. Li believes the spot, managed by local production company Yuanyuan Film, was the first in the Asia-Pacific region area to be shot in its entirety with the mini sports camera. He explains the process; “We used GoPro to shoot all the first person perspective, and 35mm film camera to shoot the third person perspectives. After the shots were taken with a GoPro, a 35mm film machine was used in post to retake the shots, in order to make the spot appear more feature-like. The difficulty in using GoPro is that the actor is the one taking the shots, not the Director of Photography. So we needed an actor with an idea of how to shoot a film. Another difficulty is that the GoPro angle control is very hard. We had to adjust the camera repeatedly during the shoot.”
The Shanghai-based agency this time eschewed their usual in-house composed soundtrack in favour of ‘Sweet Little Hunter’, a haunting melody by songwriter David Gerard Lawrence. Also unusually, the film includes English language elements including subtitles and song lyrics, a first move in the agency’s initiative to ‘internationalize’ their output in 2016.
The film is the second phase of a two-part campaign, which began in late 2015 with an HTML5 online game in which the player must navigate a series of mystery levels, all rendered in the same moody design and tone as the film. Li explains the aim was, “to resonate with Douban’s reading, music, social and online-to-offline platform quality. We want the game to present interactive experiences based on five senses: sight (perception), sound (resonance), smell (search), speech (share) and brain (spirit). We also wanted a game to create an environment and generate power for the TVC.”
In its first few days since release, the enigmatic film has generated debate. It will be intriguing to see whether that discussion translates into users returning to their Douban ‘Inner Space’.
在背景音乐的选择方面，罗景壬导演与W选择了David Gerald Lawrence的《Murder Ballads》中的单曲《Sweer Little Hunter》。这首歌缓慢而略显压抑的风格十分适合本片的氛围。