Inside the Second Life Universe With Life 2.0


Creepily validating Sean Parker’s Social Network proclamation that “Now we’re going to live on the Internet,” Life 2.0 plugs into Second Life, the PC-gaming realm where users construct avatars, environments, and relationships that often have real-world implications. The shifting boundaries between virtual and flesh-and-blood realities are empathetically investigated by director Jason Spingarn-Koff, who alternates between traditional nonfiction footage and graphical Second Life clips in a manner that reflects the lives of his obsessive subjects. Those include a woman claiming to earn a six-figure salary selling computer-society clothes and mansions, a young man playing as an 11-year-old girl (which he justifies to his understandably chagrined fiancée with Jungian psychology), and a middle-aged couple having an online affair that soon goes offline. With nonjudgmental compassion, Spingarn-Koff depicts how these individuals—fleeing into imaginary universes to express and indulge emotional desires that inevitably bleed into their everyday existences—long for self-actualization and fulfillment. At once a disturbing vision of escape, a cautious portrait of liberation, and an exploration of authenticity and artificiality—as epitomized by a Second Lifer’s fondness for Vegas’s Paris hotel but indifference for the real Paris—it’s a documentary that trades not in absolutes but unsettling ambiguity.