DVD Review: AI – Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence DVD cover

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A most beautiful, enchanting film drawing on fairy tale (Pinocchio) partly set against a sci-fi Bladerunner type background with hints and elements of the Wizard of Oz (and in an eerie way; The Planet of the Apes). A film that explores the essential core nature of humanity and our setting in and within time – of unfathomable infinity and our place in it. It is a film of love and courage and perhaps the foolhardiness of humans who think they can be as God and create as God. It is a film of the stuff that dreams are made of – a place where dreams are and where they are chased down…a film where a robot dreams of being a real boy and his adventure as he searches for the Blue Fairy.
I will not give the ending or the plot away but I shall urge all of you either to watch this film for the first time or to re-watch it. I was spellbound, sitting viewing with my son (about the age of the “child” in this film at the time) and mesmerised as the final scene ebbed away and the credits rolled into a beautiful, haunting sound-track. And then…
And then BBC Three (yes, that’s it, shout it out – it’s a bloody number!) had the continuity “announcer” crash in – her voice as ugly and as insensitive as the film was beautiful and poignant. Harping on about Two Pints…(God knows) and then – as her brash, fish-wife tones bludgeoned my son and my quiet reflection (yes, he was seemingly deeply moved too) the credits became squashed into the corner of the screen – I had chance to read it was a Steven Speilberg film and that it derived (I think) from a novel (or earlier screen play) by Ian Watson and was originally a short-story by Brian Aldiss and then – whoosh – gone – just the harsh tones and an ugly picture drawn over the screen advertising some “comic” tat. Yes, I’m angry. But, you know – I’m glad I’m angry because that – this – emotion has connected me back to the film again. I’m not sure if my son will be able to do the same. He was asking questions – truly thoughtful questions – before the fishwife’s vomit; questions that were endearing and meaningful. He had witnessed a film (yes sentimental) that asked questions of US and got right to the core – the scary core of being a human – what happens to us collectively and individually: life, death, immortality, disintegration, annihilation. What (who?) will remember us when we (humankind) are all long gone. What will discover us when we have either destroyed ourselves or the sun has done that work for us.
The film uses reflections and mirrors of its own narrative or those of say Pinocchio (Pleasure Island becomes Coney Island) and The Wizard of Oz (the Wizard becomes Doctor No). But what it explores is – how far can we take technology to re-create ourselves. Can we make a robot that loves and that has its own volition? Would we turn against our own creation – are we to be a God that makes Adam and Eve and expect love back. Can we love our own creation if it is not as us? Robots that are “Too smart. Too quick. Too many.”
The film also explores (as far as I am concerned) the very notion of death verses immortality. A robot child is created for a couple whose own son seems fatally ill. The robot child is made to love his “mummy” and this love will endure – Forever. It is a love story between a child and his mother and I didn’t have a dry eye at the end (until the credits!). But – without giving too much away – we humans are mortal and must face either the possibility of personal annihilation or with a leap of faith the idea that we will “live for ever” in another dimension/state as an act of religious or philosophical belief. Will love endure eternity? Can love endure eternity? Can anything of the self endure eternity?
The robot child – superbly acted – is the divide, the interface between the orga (organic human) world and the mecha (mechanical world) and challenges us to acknowledge that we might now be creating beings (clones) and soon robots that could in effect “be alive and conscious” and that by creating such things we have become as gods – but by God we need to think seriously about where our creations are taking us. We are on the brink of a terrible new world that may indeed be brave and may indeed be quasi-heavenly (we must – we really must be optimistic for being optimistic will give us the will to be sincere and moral) – and even now we have created animals that are seemingly part-machine/super-natural. Artificial Intelligence may gradually generate “true” intelligence or “true” emotion – we may be faced with machines that are indistinguishable from ourselves – when we have done this we will look at both our own nature (and wonder) and our own mortality against a “being” that is as infinite as God. The ultimate mirror that fiction has long put before us and that might become some hideously distorted reality.
Don’t let all this put you off! AI is intelligent (no pun intended) and charmingly evoked through the surreal, fairy-tale, dream-like qualities of its narrative – there are some mildly scary scenes and the Flesh Fair is unpleasant (unwanted/rogue/escaped robots killed for entertainment) – but the pace is usually gentle and unnervingly serene. I say the latter because the ideas got right into my soul (if soul I have).
As I write this review there has been talk of axing BBC THREE or FOUR – I prefer the latter (not to be axed!) but either is preferable to some of the inane rubbish on offer on a plethora of channels at the moment – what a shame that those whose job it is to act as announcers and continuity conduits haven’t (always?) got the sensitivity to relate to that which has gone before as well as that which is to come. Sounds like a lot of human beings we might know doesn’t it? Maybe sounds like humanity itself!
Tim Bragg

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