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A virtual glimpse into the end of the world
VR pavillion

A virtual glimpse into the end of the world

by Daniel DE JONG 2 min. 10.03.2023
Virtual reality pavilion takes viewers through harrowing testimonies of what they believed was an imminent nuclear attack
The Virtual Reality Pavilion is spread out over several rooms within Neimënster Abbey
The Virtual Reality Pavilion is spread out over several rooms within Neimënster Abbey
Photo credit: Maison du Grand-Duc/Sophie Margue

What would you do if you received a text message saying you may be about to die?

That question is at the heart of the virtual reality movie On the morning you wake (to the end of the world), which details the events that occurred in Hawai'i in January 2018, when residents received a false missile alert making them believe a nuclear strike was imminent.

When I first pulled the VR headset over my eyes at the VR pavilion at Neimënster Abbey, I was unsure what the movie would be about. The title was the only hint, and it revealed little. But the theme soon became obvious, with the opening scenes depicting the idyllic beaches of the island and the first moment the emergency alert was sent to everyone's phone.

The harrowing testimonies are touching. 

One women recalled the fact that the nuclear bomb in Hiroshima turned people into nothing more than shadows of ash on the pavement and she thought to herself "what will my shadow look like".

Another woman, from Hawai'i but living in mainland US at the time, received no emergency alert but did receive the dozens of panicked texts from friends and families. At that moment she thought of nuclear weapons not in terms of safety or security, but "in terms of my home, my family".

For the people of Hawai'i the fear of a nuclear war became a reality, for at least those 38 minutes in which they thought their world, and their life, was going to end. And through the efforts of co-directors Mike Brett, Steve Jamison, Pierre Zandrowicz, and Arnaud Colinart, viewers get a glimpse of this. 

Other works on display at Neimënster Abbey's VR pavilion are less terrifying and more awe-inspiring, such as Éternelle Notre-Dame by Bruno Seillier, and Space Explorers - Spacewalkers by Felix & Paul Studios, which allows viewers to accompany a pair of astronauts on their spacewalk and look up at the blue surface of Earth.

The VR pavilion is part of the Luxembourg City Film Festival. It runs until the 19 March and entry is free-of-charge. There are a total of 11 projects to see and visitors can rent a headset to view the movies from home. Movies are available in both French and English and typically run for around 10 minutes, with the exception of On the morning you wake (to the end of the world), which lasts 40 minutes.

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