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Beholder’s short film is just as dark and oppressive as Papers, Please

Filmmakers who adapted Papers, Please find plenty to work with in another dystopia

Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

Beholder is an acclaimed indie game for PC whose dystopian themes and conflicted choices are similar in tone to Papers, Please. That makes the filmmakers behind the short adaptation of Papers, Please the perfect pair to take on Beholder.

Liliya Tkach and Nikita Ordynskiy’s film launched yesterday, on YouTube and Steam, and like last year’s Papers, Please it tells a thought-provoking story that requires the viewer to pay close attention to a lot of visual suggestions. There’s no dialogue in Beholder (the movie) but even if you haven’t played the 2016 indie hit by Warm Lamp Games, you can follow the desperate quandary of the film’s namesake.

The “Beholder,” in both film and game, is Carl, the building supervisor of an apartment in some totalitarian state, somewhat like the Inspector of Papers, Please. His job is to spy on tenants and report violations of government directives or other suspicious behavior. But, as Carl, the player must also see to the needs of his family, which forces the player either to break government orders (with attendant risk), blackmail his tenants or watch his family suffer. In this film, we get all three.

The arc here centers on a mission Beholder players will recognize: Carl’s daughter, Anna, is chronically ill and needs a medicine, “Liebespirit,” that is forbidden by the government. One of his tenants has a bottle. From there we proceed to the conflict and its nihilist resolution.

Beholder, published by Alawar Premium, launched in late 2016 and won Best in Play at GDC Play 2017, among other honors. Its sequel, Beholder 2 (also developed by Warm Lamp) arrived in early December for Windows PC and Mac and is available on Steam right now.

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