About his latest novel Clara and the sunNobel Prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro explains in “If you present a very difficult world, you can show the brightness, the radiance”. In this novel, Klara is an artificial friend who one day leaves the shop where she is displayed to join Josie, a young teenager.
Naive and curious, Klara’s gaze rests on the world around her and perceives its many patches of shadow and light. Klara is a machine, but a machine that embodies an ideal humanity: generous, pure, and altruistic. Through her, Kazuo Ishiguro confronts us with the complexity of the human condition, where the cruelty of death and the inconsolable loneliness it leaves in its wake coexist with the light of a blazing sun.
Facing the machine means discovering yourself. This reasoning is not only deepened by the writer, although he is one of the greatest masters. As proof, these are three films dedicated to the same question today. The crimes of the future by David Cronenberg (in the cinema), i am your man by Maria Schrader (in the cinema) and After Yang by Kogonada (released July 6) play outside of the traditional codes of science fiction to engage, each in their own way, with existential questions.
Each of the three films takes on a frame – dystopia, romantic comedy, family unit – and shares the same tendency, that of the intimate in a setting with an indefinable temporality, devoid of any overly technological and futuristic. Each in their own way sends us back to ourselves, speaking to us about the couple, the family, the passage of time and our relationship to a world whose profound and irreversible transformation eludes us.
For German filmmaker Maria Schrader, the machine is a way to talk to us about love in the 21st century.e Century. His heroine Alma (Maren Eggert) corresponds to the archetype of the modern woman: professionally brilliant, extremely independent and fatally single.
When she accepts to live with a humanoid robot on a trial basis, Alma is confronted with society’s unchanging expectations: seduction, marriage, motherhood. Tom, the perfect robot, is programmed to embody his male ideal and to respond to his smallest desires. But is love made to hold on to fantasy? Shouldn’t the ideal remain unattainable by definition?
The filmmaker takes up the codes of the romantic comedy with humor and confronts the viewer with its trite and worn out ultra-standard stereotypes, the traditional result of which is to put the ring on the finger of its protagonist. So here Tom is preparing bubble bath, scented candles, and rose petals for his lover, who energetically walks away from him in the face of this ridiculous spectacle.
Tom may be a futuristic creation, but here he is stuck in the vision of one pretty Woman The cast is inspired, the filmmaker entrusting the role of seductive robot Dan Stevens – whose bilingualism we discover – who played Matthew Crawley in the dated and conservative romance series Downton Abbey. Besides, isn’t it in a bar with 1920s and 1930s aesthetics that Alma fulfills her set (and designed) promise?
When Tom tries to become a modern man and share the household chores, bad luck: Alma, she’d rather keep her merry mess. With this figure, Maria Schrader delves into the complexity and contradictions of the female aspirations of our time. Alma longs for love, even though she doesn’t seem to believe in it anymore. A love that does not require her to conform to society, but an imperfect, spontaneous love that consists of quarrels and reunions. Far from what Tom can offer him, he embodies those algorithms that promise to find a soulmate on dating sites.
But this was done without counting on the machine’s intelligence, which was configured to make Alma happy. So here Tom adapts to what he understands from his human companion. And Alma to find solace in the knight’s servant, whose humor and personality she is beginning to recognize.
i am your man
by Maria Schrader
with Maren Eggert, Dan Stevens, Sandra Huller
Released: June 22, 2022
The question of identity, everyone
A remedy for loneliness is also the starting point for the American filmmaker Kogonada in After Yang. Bought by Jake (Colin Farrell) and Kyra (Jodie Turner-Smith) when Mika arrives, her adopted granddaughter Yang is an android whose job it is to keep Mika company. Like her, Yang has Asian traits and is supposed to convey the culture of her home country to the girl. The day it stops working, the balance of the family is thrown off balance.
Again, the android is benevolent and dedicated to people’s happiness. Here, too, man initially sees Yang only as a useful but temporary and disposable machine. Only little Mika understood the role he played within the family. His parents only gradually notice this and discover the memories that the robot has stored in its memory room.
From Jake, the filmmaker subtly conveys the difficulty of being a father: his isolation from the motherly bond that binds Kyra and Mika, the attention-hungry looks his granddaughter throws at him. Most importantly, Jake will find himself by trying to fix Yang to ease Mika’s suffering.
With poetry, Yang’s memories materialize like tiny bubbles of light that draw a starry sky into which Jake is immersed. Future and nature are closely linked in Kogonada’s film. Nestled in an almost religious sentiment, nature envelops the family cocoon, where the tea ritual and garden tree embody the sacred bonds of transference, love and loss. Jake discovers Yang by seeing the world through his eyes and upon losing him realizes that the machine was a son to him.
Beyond a man learning to be a father After Yang offers a reflection on existence and identity. What consideration does man have for what lives around him? Why is he supposed to be the center of gravity of it? In Yang’s memoir, Jake discovers the soul of a non-human, generous and sad, loving and melancholy. Who was Yang? Did he even know it himself?
Drawing a parallel between the existential questions of man and machine, Kogonada delicately poses the question of identity. Is it the country where you are born without ever knowing it? Are genetics sufficient to shape a being the way a serial number would identify a machine? Or is the identity hybrid according to the cultures we immerse ourselves in, the tender and nurturing gestures we receive?
Starring Colin Farrell, Jodie Turner-Smith, Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja
Released: July 6, 2022
The man in the making
We’re a long way from the little android AI Artificial Intelligence, the 2001 film directed by Steven Spielberg, now Pinocchio, who aspired to be a real little boy. Tom and Yang never question their robotic nature. After all, who today could regard the human as an absolute worth striving for? Filmmaker Maria Schrader explains that Alma’s main concern is that they become robots “so altruistic, civilized and peaceful, in a sense indispensable and superior, that sooner or later they would render mankind obsolete”.
Where is humanity going? David Cronenberg asks us this question The crimes of the future, his new masterpiece. Not an android this time, but machines, real crutches for a desperate humanity. Like the Gregor Samsa from metamorphosis by Kafka man is transformed and frightened. The machine arrives to ease the pain for those who still feel it, and hero Saul Tenser (Viggo Mortensen) sees monstrous organs growing within himself.
What remains for this humanity if not to do what it has always known and to turn mud into gold according to Baudelaire’s teachings? The monstrous becomes a work of art. His companion Caprice (Léa Seydoux) during the manoeuvre, the machine cuts into his skin, digs into his intestines to extract those organs that eat him from the inside. The machine transcends and the machine comforts, the shape of the doll houses the absolute love that unites the couple.
As in i am your man and After Yangthe Canadian filmmaker plays with antifuturism here. The decor may be dystopian and sterile, the almost deserted town where the action takes place is slightly reminiscent of the extraordinary restrictions experienced in recent years. As Susan Sontag wrote, “Sci-fi movies don’t talk about science. You speak of a catastrophe.”
At the beginning of future crimes, a little boy eats a plastic trash can and drools. One then thinks of the children’s machine that is born in the titanium by Julia Ducournau. What other future is there for children in a world of metal and plastic if not one of transformation?
So will the new couple i am your man builds on the renunciation of one in favor of the other. The hybrid family of After Yang only finds happiness in loss. in the The crimes of the futurethe aging man finally accepts his body’s metamorphoses and plunges into an unknown future. A tear is shed in the sublime shot that closes the film. We shall know nothing of happiness or despair, but of salvation. Kazuo Ishiguro was right: every desperate world has its light.
The crimes of the future
by David Kronenberg
Starring Viggo Mortensen, Lea Seydoux, Kristen Stewart
Released: May 25, 2022