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France election: Jean-Luc Mélenchon's 'hologram' held 12 campaign rallies at once

'Holographic' optical illusions and smartphone camera filters mean there are now more versions of Jean-Luc Mélenchon than ever before
'Holographic' optical illusions and smartphone camera filters mean there are now more versions of Jean-Luc Mélenchon than ever before   -   Copyright  Euronews Next / Canva
By Tom Bateman

You've seen Emmanuel Macron's Minecraft metaverse, now witness Jean-Luc Mélenchon in hologram form.

Ahead of the first round of France's presidential election, which takes place on Sunday (April 10), the far-left candidate rounded out his campaign by holding a rally in 12 places at once, appearing holographically in 11 cities across France.

"It was a technical gamble with 1,000 people involved, but it all worked out," Mélenchon campaign manager Manuel Bompard and organiser Bastien Lachaud told AFP.

In a crowded field of 12 candidates, Mélenchon's campaign represents the most realistic hope for the left of reaching the knockout round of France's two-stage electoral system. The latest Ifop opinion poll puts incumbent president Macron at 27 per cent, far-right challenger Marine Le Pen at 23 per cent and Mélenchon at 16.5 per cent.

Strictly speaking, the images that the leader of radical leftist party La France Insoumise (France Unbowed) broadcast across France weren't really holograms.

Screenshot via Jean-Luc Mélenchon/YouTube
Mélenchon's holograms appeared at rallies in 11 French citiesScreenshot via Jean-Luc Mélenchon/YouTube

On Tuesday - just as during his unsuccessful run for president in 2017 - Mélenchon employed an optical illusion known as "Pepper's Ghost," where a 2D image is projected onto a thin film or pane of glass to give the impression that it's floating in mid-air.

But the holographic (or not) Mélenchon that appeared on Tuesday is not the only virtual version of the 70-year-old campaigning this election.

His campaign has produced Snapchat and Instagram filters of the veteran politician, allowing supporters (and, once again, British journalists) to capture him in unusual places.

Euronews Next / Canva
Mélenchon in a pot plant, on my desk, and towering over TokyoEuronews Next / Canva

Browse the hashtag "#HologrammeDePoche" or "Pocket holograms" on Twitter and you'll find a tiny Mélenchon standing on a picnic table, a gas hob, the steps of the Irish parliament and even on his own shoulder.

I decided to try it for myself, putting him in the fridge, on top of a pot plant, and expanding him to colossal size so that he towered over my Tokyo neighbourhood like a French kaiju on the rampage.

"Je me téléporte," the virtual Mélenchon says, before launching into a call for viewers to turn out and vote in the election.

But figures from the latest Ifop poll suggest his chances of making it into the second round of voting are slim - although Mélenchon's campaign now claims he's "within the margin of error" of getting there.

"Vote, vote, vote," a miniaturised version of the presidential candidate said, from his perch on top of my desk.