September 18, 2006

Hypertextual Excitement on DVD Menus

by Nick Montfort · , 12:14 pm

Memento Flash/HTML/DVD menu thing

Watching Memento again on DVD, I was fascinated to find that the hypertextual police file on the Memento Web site was available not only in Flash and HTML versions, but also on the DVD as a feature. It’s perhaps more interesting as a preliminary set of clues and enticements than an after-movie treat, and doesn’t register as a major 21st century new media effort, but it’s interesting to see that even the non-special-edition DVD that I rented harbored this hypertext.

Don Norman actually beat up on the Memento DVD’s menu design, saying that the “website-like presentation” makes for “sophisticated hypertext” in theory, but doesn’t match the film well and is too slow. Perhaps Norman just needed to consult the online Memento Limited Edition DVD menu navigation guide to figure out what was going on and find all the fun Easter eggs. Among the twists are a commentary track that has four different commentaries on the ending – in each of these director Christoper Nolan tells different stories about what the conclusion means; one of three is chosen at random when viewers watch the film with commentary. I suppose one could have control-panel-like, simple ways of configuring your movie-watching experience (langauge, subtitles, etc.), of the sort that Norman calls for, along with access to works of DVD menu art and clever developments like these, with interfaces suitable for their purpose. But the giant DVD-ejecting robots of media are, of course, more interested in deploying consumer strangulation technologies than either quality interfaces or art.