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‘Mosaic:’ Steven Soderbergh Experiments With a Multiplatform Mystery

"It's not a TV show. It's not a game. We should be like Prince. It's just, like, a symbol."

“There’s not even a word for what it is, actually, because it’s not a movie,” Steven Soderbergh tells Meredith Blake, trying to explain his multiplatform app/HBO miniseries storytelling experiment, Mosaic. “It’s not a TV show. It’s not a game. We should be like Prince. It’s just, like, a symbol.”

Read more: Steven Soderbergh’s Mosaic: Inside the Interactive Storytelling App

“In lieu of a cryptic glyph, here’s an attempt to explain Mosaic,” writes Blake. “Set in a Utah resort town, it is a mystery focused on the disappearance of Olivia Lake (Sharon Stone), the charismatic author of a wildly successful children’s book. 

“Told from multiple perspectives over a four-year time frame, both the app and the series follow the investigation into her fate, with suspicion focused on the various parasitic characters in her orbit, including con-man fiancé Eric Neill (Frederick Weller) and struggling artist/handyman Joel Hurley (Garrett Hedlund).

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“In the app version, 15 chapters are laid out in a web-like map. After watching a chapter, usually 15-30 minutes in length, users must select which character to follow next until they’ve reached the end of a thread. Along the way, they can check out so-called ‘discoveries,’ like PDFs of documents relevant to the case, voicemails and additional scenes.” To read the full article, click here

Mosaic stands out for the amount of experimentation Soderbergh and his collaborators attempt to bring to bear on their story,” says K. Austin Collins. “The miniseries version plays out somewhat as you would expect of a Soderbergh mystery: elliptically, stylishly, with an emphasis on the amount of ambiguity and confusion you can generate in a thinking audience’s head with a well-placed montage here, a subtly skewed shot or two there, a beguiling flashback or voice-over or match cut elsewhere.

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“If the show doesn’t convince you of that, the app — which gives you much of the same material, choose-your-own-adventure style, with the mystery unravelling pending the linear paths you opt to pursue as you make your way through the story — certainly will. I completed the app and watched the miniseries back-to-back, but it didn’t feel like I was repeating myself.

“The app’s 30-minute chunks of story are less rigorously edited than the scenes of the fuller miniseries; lots of spare details find their way into the story as you stick more closely to one character at a time and get a more quotidian, but not necessarily more revealing, sense of their relationship to the murder. Where the show makes a point of folding these paths into each other, the interactive experience is premised on teasing them apart, pursuing the mystery as various characters might pursue it (or involve themselves in it).” To read the full article, click here.  

“The danger with a project that makes use of new technology is that the story might play second fiddle,” writes N.D. in The Economist. “This is not the case for Mosaic, which is engrossing, while feeling genuinely innovative. 

“One of the themes examined is the slipperiness of identity—this is enriched by the subjective format of the app, where it is possible to examine certain characters from two, three or even four perspectives. It emphasizes the blinkered way in which we experience the world.” To read the full article, click here.